British Conservative politician, party leader 2003–05. As Conservative leader he steered the party further to the political right, adopting an election manifesto in 2005 that focused on tighter immigration controls, law and order, and lower taxes. Despite the Conservatives gaining 33 more seats in the May 2005 general election it was the party's third successive electoral defeat, and Howard stood down as leader in December. He was succeeded by David Cameron. He retired as a member of Parliament (MP) at the 2010 general election and was given a life peerage in the dissolution honours list.
As home secretary 1993–97, Howard advocated increased police powers, as embodied in the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, and tougher sentencing. He was shadow foreign and Commonwealth secretary 1997–99 and shadow chancellor of the Exchequer from 2001 until November 2003, when he became the party's new leader following the ousting of Iain Duncan Smith in a Conservative MPs' vote of confidence.
Howard was born in Gorseinon, south Wales. After a successful legal career as a barrister, he entered the House of Commons in 1983 and, under Margaret Thatcher, made rapid ministerial progress through the departments of trade and industry, environment, and employment, until being appointed home secretary by John Major in 1993. His populist approach to law and order won him the plaudits of grass-roots party members, but he was forced to retreat on a number of key points, including that of police restructuring, in the face of criticism from senior Conservative figures as well as members of the judiciary.
His position as home secretary was seriously threatened in October 1995 following allegations that he had unduly interfered in the operations of the prison service. After the Conservative Party's election defeat in May 1997, he unsuccessfully contested the party's vacant leadership, his challenge being undermined by critical comments by former ministerial colleague Ann Widdecombe about his conduct as home secretary. He retired to the backbenches 1999–2001, after attacks from fellow Conservative MPs while he was shadow foreign and Commonwealth secretary for backing the Labour government over the war in Kosovo.
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