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Departing Tory leader Michael Howard said he believes only an economic slump can return the Conservatives to power.
Mr Howard said the state of the economy was central to overthrowing Labour at the next general election.
In an interview in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Howard said it was hard for the opposition to win when people were 'relatively content'.
He was speaking ahead of the Tory annual conference, where the leadership contest is expected to step up.
He told the paper: "When most people are relatively content with their economic lot, it is very hard for an opposition to win elections.