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Conservative Party Leadership Election 1995

John Major challenges his detractors to "put up or shut up"
On June 22nd 1995, John Major announced his resignation as Leader of the Conservative Party, though not as Prime Minister. His resignation was a response to a deep divide in the party over the still highly contentious issue of Europe. There had been questions raised on the backbenches over his ability to unite and lead the party effectively and consequently, rumours of a leadership challenge. Major said in his press conference, in the garden at Number 10, that the time had come to "Put up or shut up".

The Prime Minister's sole challenger was John Redwood MP, who resigned as Secretary of State for Wales in order to stand. Redwood's candidacy came as a surprise to many observers as the Prime Minister had said there had been assurances from his Cabinet that none of its members would stand against him. Many thought that Major's former Chancellor, Norman Lamont, would have been a more likely candidate but instead Lamont became a prominent member of the Redwood team.

John Redwood - Major's sole challenger
John Redwood represented the Euro-sceptic wing of the party and received a reasonable amount of support on that basis. His most 'heavyweight' backer was Lord (Norman) Tebbit, former Secretary of State for Employment, Trade and Industry and Conservative Party Chairman in the Thatcher government. Lord Tebbit is backing Redwood again this time round.

Redwood also attempted to win the support of those Conservative MPs in marginal seats, implying that without a new leader they would be likely to lose their seats at the next general election. His campaign team distributed a leaflet with the slogan: 'No Change - No Chance' among his fellow Tory MPs.

To win at the first ballot John Major needed 50% of all those eligible to vote as well as a further 15% more than John Redwood. This amounted to about 190 votes on the basis that there would be no abstentions. The lowest possible winning margin was 165 votes.

Robin Oakley interviews Mr Major in the garden of No. 10
There was also a great deal of speculation surrounding a possible second ballot. Many wondered whether Major would resign if he did not score a resounding victory in the first ballot as his predecessor Margaret Thatcher had done in November 1990. It was widely believed that Michael Portillo and Michael Heseltine might stand as representatives of the right and left of the party respectively in the event of a second ballot. Telephone engineers were filmed installing new lines at Mr Portillo's London base.

In the event, the Prime Minister scored a convincing victory, polling 218 votes (66%) against Mr Redwood's 89 (27%) and 8 abstentions. (12 papers were spoilt and there were two non-voters.) Following his re-election John Major had a Cabinet re-shuffle, Mr Redwood was not re-appointed to the new Cabinet.

Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-1997

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