Sacked MP to end party battle

Last updated at 12:45 06 April 2005

Sacked Conservative MP Howard Flight today signalled the end of his running row with party leader Michael Howard.

Mr Flight will tonight tell activists in his Arundel and South Downs constituency that he will not stand as an independent candidate at the forthcoming General Election.

Mr Howard ruled that the MP could not stand as a Conservative candidate in his constituency, after comments which he made suggesting that the party had a programme of secret spending cuts appeared in the press.

Mr Flight had already quit as a deputy chairman of the party over the incident.


Mr Howard's decision caused anger in the constituency, where many members have complained that the party leader's action was draconian.

Mr Flight has been pressing, unsuccessfully, for a meeting of the association at which he would be reaffirmed as candidate or de-adopted. But tonight, at a meeting of the association called to choose a replacement candidate, Mr Flight will make clear that he will no longer pursue that course.

Mr Flight will address the meeting, and will say: "Above all I would not want to be responsible for tearing apart the Arundel and South Downs Constituency Association.


"I apologise for the trouble which this media spin incident has caused you all, and especially to the officers who, I appreciate, have been placed in a very difficult position.

"I have stood my ground because I felt I had been treated unfairly and because there are important underlying issues of Conservative Party governance, which I believe must be addressed after we win the General Election.

"I have had strong legal advice that it is unconstitutional to select a new candidate without first the members of the Association giving me a fair hearing and then deciding whether or not to de-adopt me.

"Whatever the legal position, it is unsustainable for the interpretation construed to remain, if we are to stay a democratic party in which associations count for something.

"Given the imminence of the General Election, I can, however, understand the reasons for the reaction and stance which the party leadership has taken.

"But the Conservative Party is bigger than any one man: Christabel (Mr Flight's wife) and I have, therefore, concluded that, as life long, committed Conservatives, I could not stand as an independent."

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