Howard announces his retirement

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Michael Howard has announced that he is standing down as an MP at the next election, bringing to an end a Commons career for the former Home Secretary once described by Ann Widdecombe as having "something of the night about him".

Mr Howard, 64, stood down as Tory party leader after the disappointment of the heavy defeat at the previous general election. He told his Folkestone and Hythe constituency last night that by the time of the next election, he would have been an MP for 26 years.

"I have been privileged to serve as a government minister for 12 years and in the shadow Cabinet for six years, but the time has now come to move on," he said.

But he did not appear to rule out the prospect of remaining in politics by taking a life peerage when he retires from the Commons.