New uncertainty for Major

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Indy Politics
Fears in the Tory high command of an attempt to oust John Major as party leader after the May local elections have been exacerbated by continued deadlock over possible rule changes.

Tory party managers are bracing themselves for a renewed threat to Mr Major's leadership after the elections, in which the Tories fear the loss of up to 800 out of just over 1,000 seats being contested.

But hopes that the backbench 1922 Committee will by then have changed the rules to make a challenge unconstitutional are fading fast. Prominent right-wing Tories are strongly resisting a radical reform of the rules before the general election.

The most they are willing to contemplate is a modest increase in the proportion - currently 10 per cent - of backbenchers who can trigger a contest by calling for one in writing. One high-ranking Tory admitted yesterday there would be "turbulence" after the elections.