Another Tory grandee quits the Commons

Former Tory chairman Michael Ancram is to stand down at the next general election for health reasons, his constituency office said today.

Party grandee Mr Ancram, who is the Marquess of Lothian, was caught up in the expenses scandal and repaid almost £100 he claimed to have his swimming pool boiler serviced. The 64-year-old has been MP for the safe Tory seat of Devizes, Wiltshire, since 1992 and held it with a majority of 13,194 in 2005.

In a letter to the chairman of his constituency party he said he had been taking medication for a heart problem for the last six years. In his letter to constituency chairman Ken Carter, Mr Ancram said: "It is with genuine sadness that I have decided to stand down from Parliament at the coming general election. This decision has been forced upon me by considerations of health.

"I have for the past six years successfully been on medication for coronary problems. I have however recently had to consider the effects of the pressures of another five years of parliamentary and constituency duties upon my health. I have also taken into consideration the fact that I will be almost 65 at the time when the election is likely to be held.

"I have reluctantly concluded that for the sake of my family and myself the time has come for me to stand down."

Following the election, Mr Ancram said his wife Jane and he would divide their time between Wiltshire and Scotland. In a statement, Devizes Conservative Constituency Association said Mr Ancram had been an "excellent" MP. "Michael Ancram's decision to stand down at the next general election is greeted with a combination of concern at the cause of his decision and great pride and respect at the way he has served the Devizes constituency since first elected in 1992," the association said.

As part of its expose of MPs' expenses, the Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Ancram claimed £98.58 for the repair of his swimming pool boiler as well as more than £3,000 in cleaning costs and £1,250 of gardening expenses in a single year.

The Tories, progressive? Mandy hits out

Lord Mandelson yesterday attacked shadow Chancellor George Osborne’s claims that the Conservatives had become the “progressive” force of UK politics.

Accusing the Tories of “political cross-dressing”, the Business Secretary predicted that the Tory plan for government would have “a crippling cost in human potential and long-term growth”. Yesterday Mr Osborne called for major changes to public services to prevent cuts as a result of tighter budgets. He said Labour had “abandoned progressive politics” and would be “condemned to irrelevancy” for years.

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