LETTER:The 700 would-be Tory MPs

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From Dame Angela Rumbold, MP

Sir: You carry today an article about the number of Conservative MPs who are standing down at the next election ("Disillusioned Tory MPs quit in record numbers", 5 February). This is reported as "the biggest exodus for a quarter of a century".

May I point out that, to date, only 52 sitting Conservative MPs have indicated that they will stand down at the next Election. In 1992, 56 Conservative MPs stood down, excluding the Speaker who was elected as a Conservative MP.

Since the assumption on which the article was based was demonstrably incorrect, may I also venture to suggest that the conclusions were similarly misleading.

If it were the case that the Conservative Party was in difficulties, I wonder how you would interpret the fact that there are some 700 would- be MPs on the official candidates list, a further 55 waiting for admission to the list, and the applications are still arriving at Central Office.

Far from being a list of people who are career politicians, many of the candidates are people with distinguished careers in the professions, business and industry. I expect they would be mildly irritated to be classified as either on the right or the left, since they have come forward as Conservative candidates wishing to offer their very considerable talents in public service.

Yours faithfully,

Angela Rumbold

Vice-Chairman,

in charge of candidates

Conservative Central Office

London, SW1

5 February

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