Howard's parting shot to party hints at backing for Cameron

Mr Howard, who will formally resign today but will stay on until a new leader is chosen in December, rallied the Tory conference in his farewell speech with a plea for unity under his successor.

Although aides denied he was endorsing any of the five candidates, some MPs saw his references to the need to win over a new generation of voters as a hint that he wanted the party to skip a generation and elect David Cameron, whom he promoted to shadow Education Secretary after the general election.

Earlier Mr Howard appeared to cast doubt on whether David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, has the qualities of a leader following his disappointing conference speech on Wednesday. "Inspiration needs to be part of the prescription," he said.

The outgoing Tory leader hailed this week's Blackpool conference as "truly remarkable" and "full of hope" for the party. He admitted he had been privately worried that it could be seen as divisive because it would be dominated by the leadership beauty contest.

Mr Howard said: "Let's not run down our party. Let's show we can elect a new leader without bitterness and backbiting. And then let's unite behind that new leader - not just for a year or two, but for a whole parliament, even when the going gets tough."

Mr Howard steered a middle course between right-wing traditionalists and modernisers demanding radical change who have given a frank assessment of the party's poor standing with the voters. "We must not be obsessed by talking about ourselves, to ourselves, at Westminster. We must engage with the vast majority of people who - often quite rightly - see Westminster as a remote and distant place, unconnected to the real world.

"Yes, we must change, but we are not - and never have been - a nasty party."

After two years as Tory leader, Mr Howard admitted that his best "turned out not to be good enough" after he failed to prevent a third successive election defeat.

He was unrepentant about the platform on which the party stood and his decision to play the immigration card. Attacking the "shambles" of the immigration system, he said: "We need to know who is coming into and leaving our country - that means controlling immigration.

"To me that is a statement of the blindingly obvious. It's not about shoring up some core vote. It's about protecting our country. And no one - not Tony Blair, not Charles Kennedy, not the media - should stop us from saying so."

Francis Maude, the Tory chairman, told the party that the Tories were "on the march again", but warned: "We know that just having a brilliant conference is the beginning of our renewal, not the end. We recognise that we must not slip back into a cosy comfort zone where we congratulate ourselves in ever smaller rooms about the excellence of our policies while too many modern Britons blithely ignore us."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Subject Leader of ICT & Computing

£21588 - £36756 per annum + negotiable: Randstad Education Chelmsford: ICT/Com...

C# Senior Web developer (C#, VBA, Strong Education,C++, JAVA)

£40000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Senio...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

£45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil