- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2003

LONDON (Agence France-Presse) — Michael Howard, heir apparent to Britain’s opposition Conservative Party, declared yesterday that he would stick by the party’s core pledge to slash taxes as it appeared he would clinch its leadership by acclamation.

He would not be drawn into making “flashy promises” about resolving all of Britain’s problems overnight, Mr. Howard wrote in the mass circulation News of the World newspaper.

But he made it clear that he would keep the tax-cutting core of the Conservative election manifesto that was released by deposed party leader Iain Duncan Smith at the party’s annual conference in October.

“The best way government can help people is to give them the opportunities to make the most of their potential. That’s why we’ll make the case for low taxes,” Mr. Howard said.

Mr. Howard is the only declared candidate to succeed Mr. Duncan Smith, who was ousted by Conservative members of Parliament disappointed by the party’s failure to take advantage of slumping support for Prime Minister Tony Blair.

With senior Conservatives taking turns to back him, Mr. Howard is expected by many political analysts to clinch the leadership by acclamation when nominations close Thursday.

Mr. Howard was the Conservatives’ finance spokesman under Mr. Duncan Smith, and he played a key part in formulating the election platform that also calls for better pensions, free university education and more police officers.

In his News of the World article, Mr. Howard crowed that Britain was “the greatest country in the world,” and he did not signal any changes to his long-held skepticism of the euro, the single European currency.

The Conservatives oppose British adoption of the euro. They are also pressing Mr. Blair to call a referendum on the EU constitution that is to be approved by leaders of the European Union in December.

Mr. Blair is refusing such a vote, saying the constitution is no more than a “tidying up” of existing EU treaties.

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