Maude's plan to restructure Tories blocked by leadership contenders

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Indy Politics

Supporters of leadership candidates were furious that Mr Maude had proposed sweeping changes before the election of a new leader. His scheme included bringing in Tony Caplin, a businessman, to reduce the party's £6.2m deficit for 2004 by cost-cutting, and moving staff out of London to the West Midlands. "A lot of people are angry,'' said a backer of one candidate.

A senior party source confirmed that Mr Maude's restructuring proposals had been "put on hold" until after the election of the new leader in November.

There was also anger over a £769,000 bill for advertising fees by Immediate Sales, a subsidiary of M and C Saatchi, the firm run by Lord Saatchi, former joint chairman of the party, for the election campaign. The total cost of the campaign was £6.7m.

Lord Saatchi furiously denied a report that his company had charged the party £2.5m in fees, and a statement by the Tory peer also revealed the extent of his row with Lynton Crosby, the Australian campaign guru, over strategy.

Lord Saatchi said he had asked Michael Howard to change his title to non-executive chairman, in effect demoting him, because his powers were removed when Mr Crosby was brought in. Mr Howard refused.

"I played no part in the briefings or approvals of Conservative Party advertisements. I first saw many of the party's advertisements and party political broadcasts when they appeared in the media,'' Lord Saatchi said.

The rows escalated as the ruling board endorsed plans for the change in the rules to allow the MPs, rather than the party in the country, to choose the next leader. However, the campaign to stop the change has been stepped up. Barry Legg, former chief executive, said the Better Choice Campaign had the backing of at least 100 constituency chairmen.