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DAILY POST COMMENT: Conservative hopes at the election have taken 'Flight.

OOR old Michael Howard. His hopes of an election upset have been made more slender still by the Howard Flight affair.

The Tory leader must have hoped his former deputy party chairman would quietly take 'Flight' when he gave him the sack.

But he shows no signs of going anywhere without a right royal scrap first.

It is the last things an embattled Howard needs.

Slowly, but surely, he had began to chip away successfully at Labour's impression of invincibility.

And while all but the deluded would still point to another Labour victory at the polls in May, there is no doubt the Tories stood to make significant ground on their current position.

That though, depended on the Conservatives gathering momentum in the next few weeks, not running into a brick wall like this one.

Flight's crime was to shatter the illusion of an all-for-one, one-for-all Tory party, rallying under the Michael Howard flag. His suggestion that the Tories were hiding the full impact of their cost-cutting plans was as astonishing as it was ill-timed.

This was not some loud-mouthed but largely irrelevant backbencher breaking ranks on a point of principle. If it was, then hats off to free thinking and individual will.

No, as deputy chairman of the party, Flight had to be part of the inner sanctum, a man wedded to Howard's policies and strategies and four-square behind the team ethic a polling day drew closer.

That he should break ranks like this gives Howard a huge headache in his bid to portray the Tories as possessors of cohesive and innovative ideas on governing a better Britain.

What's more, Flight's insistence on carrying on as an MP is another flagrant challenge to the leader's authority and something that ensures this controversy will run and run at the worst possible time.

Somebody, somewhere, in the upper echelons of the Tory party should tap Howard Flight on the shoulder and tell him the facts. If he doesn't disappear then all hopes of Conservative gains in May most certainly will
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Title Annotation:Comment
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 29, 2005
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