Yeo backs Ken Clarke for leader

SUFFOLK South MP Tim Yeo has ruled himself out of the race to succeed Michael Howard as Conservative Party – and has backed former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke for the job.

By Graham Dines

SUFFOLK South MP Tim Yeo has ruled himself out of the race to succeed Michael Howard as Conservative Party – and has backed former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke for the job.

Mr Yeo, former shadow environment secretary who resigned from the Conservative front bench after the General Election, is now urging others on the left of the party to step aside and endorse Mr Clarke in an attempt to stop David Davis from becoming leader.

Mr Clarke took Tories by surprise this week by performing a massive u-turn over British membership of the single European currency.


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The last remaining "big beast" in the Tory jungle has twice been thwarted in his bid to become leader because he had refused to soften his support for the euro.

Mr Yeo spoke out it after it emerged that both David Willetts and former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind would enter the fray.

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"In my view, unquestionably the most likely person to defeat Labour and to see off the threat from the Liberal Democrats is Ken Clarke," said Mr Yeo, who has been MP for Suffolk South since 1983.

"When I resigned from the shadow cabinet after the General Election a number of people urged me to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

"I have decided not to do so. The most important consideration for the party is who can lead us to victory.

"I therefore urge Ken to enter the contest at the earliest opportunity. I hope my supporters and colleagues, including those who are themselves still thinking of running for the leadership, will follow my lead and back a winner," said Mr Yeo, who is on the liberal left of the Tory Party and who backed Michael Portillo in the 2001 leadership election.

"Ken is the best qualified and most popular of all the potential candidates. Crucially he has the strongest appeal to people who do not currently vote Conservative – the very voters whose support we must regain if we are to win the next election.

"With all his experience, Ken is best able to hold the Government to account on the big issues facing Britain. He has the popular credibility to take our case to the voters. The economy will be the central issue of this Parliament.

"Ken is supremely placed to take the argument to Gordon Brown and win - he has done it before and will do it again.

"Put simply, Ken is the man to beat Labour and lead the Conservative Party into Government once again."

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