Redwood the Vulcan takes on Tory Boy

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The Independent Online
John Redwood will announce today that he is running for the leadership of the Conservative Party on a pledge to reunite the party on Europe and rebuild the Tories from the grass roots.

Mr Redwood is facing a concerted effort by some Tory grandees to block his campaign, but he will tell the 165 Tory MPs who will select the new leader: "Now is the time for explanation, not recrimination."

There may be a hollow laugh from his critics, but Mr Redwood, who has been consistent in his opposition to a single currency, believes the party will be united in its opposition to a fudged single currency.

However, in spite of his Euro-scepticism, Mr Redwood, known as the Vulcan, will also base his campaign on the need to rebuild from the grassroots through Tory strength on local councils, highlighting the Tory haul of 19 out of 26 seats on his local Wokingham council. The former Cabinet minister who challenged John Major for the leadership on the slogan "No change, no chance", will be the third to enter the field, after Kenneth Clarke and Peter Lilley.

He has a head-start on the rest, having been out of government since 1995 when he resigned to fight the leadership.

The campaign for the chairmanship of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs also will get under way today.

Archie Hamilton, a former defence minister, will announce in a letter to all Tory MPs that he is standing for the post, which has to be filled before the leadership contest can begin.

Other contenders for the 1922 chairmanship will include John MacGregor, a former Cabinet minister, Tom King, and Sir Geoffrey Johnson-Smith.

Alan Clark, the MP for Kensington and Chelsea, has also told his friends he wants to run for the chairmanship, which will be decided on 21 May.

The former Home Secretary, Michael Howard, is almost certain to mount a strong campaign for the leadership, emerging as one of the last contenders, in order to build a momentum before formally declaring his bid.

Mr Howard is gaining support across the party, from the Euro-sceptic right wing, to some of those on the left of the Tory Party, including Virginia Bottomley, who believe he is a "big hitter" who carries enough authority to challenge Tony Blair.

William Hague is also expected to declare his candidacy for the leadership, after taking soundings from among his friends. He is emerging as the front- runner among those who believe they now have to jump a generation to rebuild the party and match Mr Blair's appeal.

At 36, however, some of the grandees in the party who survived the cull on 1 May yesterday said Mr Hague was "too young" to take on the task.

Mr Major is expected to take on responsibility for foreign affairs and Europe, following the loss of the Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, and will meet senior colleagues, including the party's chief whip, Sir Alastair Goodlad, to map out the strategy for dealing with Mr Blair's first Queen's Speech next Wednesday.

The response to the Queen's speech could be Mr Major's swan song. But those close to him discounted speculation that he may stand down from his Huntingdon constituency to provide a seat for Chris Patten, the Governor of Hong Kong. "He feels it would be insulting to his constituency. He won't do that." He will not back openly any of the candidates to replace him.