Tory prodigies 'unlikely to run for leadership'

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George Osborne and David Cameron - the "Blair and Brown" of the Tory party - are unlikely to run for the Tory leadership, senior Conservative figures say.

Mr Osborne, 33, was given the chance to run by Michael Howard, the Tory leader, who has promoted him to shadow Gordon Brown, the Chancellor.

But a senior Tory shadow minister told The Independent: "George won't run. He's too young and he knows it would not do him any good. The same applies to David Cameron."

William Hague, the former leader, and a close friend, also hinted that Mr Osborne would not run.

"I don't think he is too young for the job he is doing now," said Mr Hague. "Whether he stands for the leadership will be up to him."

Mr Osborne sounded hesitant, saying on Sky News said: "I am not actually running for that job [the leadership]."

Mr Howard is planning to deliver a morale-boosting speech to Tory MPs this morning in committee room 14 of the Commons - the same room in which Mr Blair faced his dissidents yesterday. Lynton Crosby, the Tories' Australian strategist, will also defend his election strategy.

"He's going to tell us why we lost," said one disgruntled Tory MP.

The Tories are believed to owe £16m in loans after the election campaign but Liam Fox, who was joint chairman of the party, denied the Conservatives were facing a financial crisis. He told allies the party was "in the black".

However, big donors are deeply unhappy with the campaign fought by Mr Howard. Lord Kalms, the head of Dixons, made it clear that he wanted Mr Howard to go as soon as possible. His friend Lord Saatchi, who criticised the campaign at the weekend, is understood to have been furious at being overruled. "Maurice Saatchi wanted bigger tax cuts. He devised the 'Labour tax bombshell' and thought we should have played that card again," said a senior Tory.

The field for the leadership contest is expected to be whittled down to three candidates: David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary; Liam Fox, the shadow foreign secretary; and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary, who has returned to Westminster after a gap of eight years.

The modernisers are still seeking a candidate, but MPs said it was unlikely they will back any of the main contenders, including Tim Yeo, Andrew Lansley or Alan Duncan. Ken Clarke is unlikely to back Mr Davis, but the Davis camp would like his support.

Mr Hague and Oliver Letwin, the former shadow Chancellor, ruled themselves out of the race. "I certainly will not be standing for the leadership, however many people ask me to," said Mr Hague. Mr Letwin said: "I am not going to contest this time. I think one has to know one's limits."