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By-election looms as resignation considered

THE prospect of a damaging by-election loomed yesterday as a Tory maverick, Sir Richard Body, recently labelled 'barmy' by the Prime Minister, declined to dampen speculation that he will resign his seat.

The loss of the Holland-with-Boston seat, which some speculate he may even decide to contest as an independent conservative, would reduce Mr Major's overall Commons majority from 17 to 15.

Sir Richard, 66, a fervent Maastricht rebel, has hinted he might quit since the Prime Minister remarked during his September visit to Japan: 'When I hear the name of Richard Body, I hear the sound of white coats flapping.' Sir Richard is also said to be incensed over Mr Major's decision to bring the Maastricht revolt to an end by moving a confidence motion.

Interviewed on BBC Radio yesterday, Sir Richard said he would reveal his decision after a meeting with his constituency officers tomorrow week.

Asked whether he hoped to stand again for the Lincolnshire seat he has held since 1966, he said: 'Well, I do not know . . . I have had a great deal of support from my constituents, and naturally I would be sorry to part company with those who have given me such generous support.'

Sir Richard, a farmer, recently revealed that he had been approached by a publisher to write books on economics, saying: 'It is much more attractive than taking all this nonsense from the party leadership.'