Rifkind considers bid to be next Tory leader

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Indy Politics

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary, has confirmed that he is considering a bid to succeed Michael Howard as the Conservative leader.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary, has confirmed that he is considering a bid to succeed Michael Howard as the Conservative leader.

As David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, appealed for calm in an apparent effort to distance himself from reported moves to unseat Mr Howard, Sir Malcolm took a swipe at MPs in "certain quarters" who had already begun manoeuvring over the leadership.

Asked whether he was planning a bid for the leadership, Sir Malcolm told BBC Radio 4's World This Weekend: "It is possible. I might be."

But he added: "The leadership campaign hasn't begun yet, despite some appearances to the contrary from certain quarters, so I think it is wise to take a decision on these matters when Michael Howard announces that he is stepping down."

Sir Malcolm served as Scottish secretary under Margaret Thatcher and defence secretary and foreign secretary under John Major.

He lost his Edinburgh Pentlands seat in Labour's landslide election victory in 1997 but returned to Parliament this month as MP for Kensington and Chelsea. He was immediately appointed shadow Work and Pensions Secretary.

Sir Malcolm said it was "simply not practical" to hold a quick leadership election. "We have a situation at the moment where there is broad agreement that we need to change the way in which the party leader is elected," he said.

Mr Davis, the early favourite for the leadership, urged Tories to direct their fire at Labour rather than each other.

He told the Sunday Telegraph: "The Conservative Party is facing some fairly serious decisions, and it ought to address them in a calm frame of mind. Now, more than ever, it is important that we are unified in our attack on the Government."

Sir John Major, interviewed on BBC1's Breakfast with Frost, refused to be drawn on who he supported as leader. But he appeared to warn Mr Davis, a right-winger, that if he won he should draw all shades of Tory opinion into his team.

¿ The Liberal Democrat MP for Cheadle, Patsy Calton, died yesterday at the age of 56 after suffering from cancer, the party announced. Despite a recurrence of her illness during the election, Ms Calton decided to remain a candidate and was returned to Parliament on 5 May with a greatly increased majority.

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