Runners and riders in race to lead party

Colin Brown runs a rule over the hopefuls who have thrown their hats in the ring
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The Independent Online
Michael Howard, 55, ex-home secretary, opponent of Ken Clarke in Cabinet over Europe, but failed to persuade John Major to harden the opposition to the single currency. Strength - right-winger, hard on crime, and tough debater who scored hits on Jack Straw, then his shadow; he is seen as one of the few who could lay a glove on Tony Blair.

Weakness - seen as slick lawyer, who could argue the same case either way. Team - Sir Michael Spicer, leading Euro-sceptic; David Lidington, his parliamentary private secretary; with loyal number two David Maclean. Other Euro-sceptics likely to back him include David Davis, former foreign minister. On centre-left, Virginia Bottomley among his backers.

Kenneth Clarke, 56, ex-chancellor, big hitter who can scare Labour; won praise for handling of the economy, steady growth and low inflation, and resistance to Governor of the Bank, Eddie George's pressure for increases in interest rates. Strength - belief in himself, "blokeish" appeal.

Weakness - Euro-sceptics hate him, and Britain will never elect a leader in Hushpuppies. Camp - pro-Europeans, John Gummer, Ian Taylor and Sir Peter Temple-Morris, leader of the Macleod group of "one- nation" Tory MPs.

William Hague: 36, ex-secretary of state for Wales, centre-left with Euro-sceptic cutting edge, who could play the unity card.

Strength - no blame for the defeat attaches to him; youth makes him the only choice for those wanting to jump a generation. Also brave - he made public scandal of child abuse in homes in Wales.

Weakness - too young to cut the mustard. Team - Alan Duncan, former fixer in the Major camp, and Portillo supporter; Nigel Evans, his former PPS; Sir George Young, baronet on the caring left of the party.

John Redwood: 45, with the Conservative 2000 think-tank as a base, ex- Welsh secretary, Eurosceptic and right-wing populist, former head of Thatcher's Downing Street policy unit.

Strength - proved right on the need to apologise for Black Wednesday, and his opposition in government to tax rises; had the courage of his deep convictions to challenge John Major in 1995; outside the regime which crashed on 1 May.

Weakness - "Vulcan" accused of helping to bring down the Major regime by Euro-scepticism; too brainy to lead the "stupid" party. Team - Iain Duncan-Smith, Julian Brazier, Edward Leigh, Marion Roe, David Wilshire, with Howell Williams, as political aide.

Stephen Dorrell: 45, former health secretary, with strong centre-left credentials. Strength - youngish, stylish, articulate spokesman, with bright ideas on the health-service reforms. Weakness - shift to Euro-scepticism lost friends on the left and failed to convince right. Team - David Faber, his former PPS, Peter Luff, and Tim Rycroft, political aide, but could gain more from the Heseltine camp.

Peter Lilley, 53, ex-social security secretary, author of the Pensions Plus plan, which opened Tories to fatal Labour attack in election over alleged abolition of state pension.

Strength - right-winger with brains to go cautiously on welfare reform. Weakness - image too thin to lead Tories back to victory. Team - John Whittingdale, former Thatcher PPS, David Willetts, Bernard Jenkin, Piers Merchant, and could gain more from Euro-sceptic Portillo camp.

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