Tory poll puts Hague in front for leadership

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The Independent Online
William Hague has emerged as the choice of constituency activists to be the new leader of the Conservative Party.

A poll of local associations by Tory Central Office found "overwhelming" backing for the 36-year-old MP.

The votes in two regions were leaked to the Hague camp. In Wessex, he secured the support of 23 out of 33 constituency party chairmen and in the South East he took nine of 23 votes.

Mr Hague plans to build on this support with a three-week tour of constituencies. His aides hope the local parties will put pressure on the 164 Tory MPs to vote for him.

Alan Duncan MP, Mr Hague's campaign manager, said: "The force for unity is William Hague. No one else can do it."

The Hague camp claims to have the adherence of 10 MPs, including Peter Bottomley.

A spokesman for Lady Thatcher has denied she will back Wokingham MP John Redwood for the leadership.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine, who dropped out of the contest last week on health grounds, was yesterday released from the Harley Street Clinic after an angioplasty operation.

n The Parliamentary Labour Party will this week elect a new chairman. Roger Stott, 53, the MP for Wigan, is running on a ticket to stand up for back-benchers against central control. A candidate more acceptable to Downing Street is certain to emerge before a chairman is chosen.