On this day: Tony Blair wins a third term

May 5 2005: An end to Michael Howard’s hopes

By Jennifer Lipman, May 5, 2011

With a win of 413 seats and 40.7 per cent of votes, Labour swept to a historic third term, putting an end to the hopes of Conservative leader Michael Howard.

Mr Howard, whose grandmother died in Auschwitz after being deported from Romania, grew up in Llanelli in South Wales. He studied at Cambridge, passed the bar and won his first election in 1983.

His political rise saw him take on several high-profile cabinet positions, most notably Home Secretary under John Major. After an unsuccessful leadership bid in 1997, he became leader in 2003.

The man who could have been the first professing Jewish Prime Minister had waged a tough election campaign, fighting primarily on issues including immigration and border control. It was a campaign marred by nastiness on both sides, not least because of Labour's posters depicting Howard and his fellow Jewish MP Oliver Letwin as flying pigs, condemned as antisemitic by critics.

A day after the election, Howard announced his decision to step down as leader. He chose not to contest the 2010 election, and was made the life peer Baron Howard of Lympne of Lympne in July 2010.

IN HIS final conference speech as leader, almost two years after he took on the role, Howard called for "a secure Israel living beside a genuinely viable Palestinian state" and warned that Islamic terrorists were fighting not only for the cause of Palestinians or Iraqis but for "the destruction of western society and democracy, which they believe are fundamentally corrupt and weak.".

What the JC said: No one should be too surprised by Michael Howard's decision to announce his resignation as Tory leader. Howard conducted a lonely and honourable campaign to restore the Conservatives to power. But it was a campaign infected by nastiness…The scale of Howard's achievement is measured not just by the number of seats gained but by the discomfort of the Prime Minister. Blair emerged from the election a diminished figure, forced to cede power over Cabinet making to his Chancellor, Gordon Brown…Overall, it was a miserable campaign with some dispiriting incidents and outcomes. One can only hope that lessons have been learned.

See more from the JC archives here.

Last updated: 8:42am, May 5 2011