Letter: Tory future at risk

Sir: The Conservative Party must be careful that it does not begin to get a reputation for intolerance which could be fatal to our political future.

Both sides of the argument on Europe are in danger of departing from the merits of their points of view and attacking the motives, the integrity or the right of their colleagues to speak.

On the one hand Michael Portillo was attacked by a former Cabinet colleague and accused of trying to drag the party beyond the policy approved in the referendum.

On the other hand Leon Brittan is rebuked by a senior member of the Shadow Cabinet and told that, as a European civil servant, he has no right to express his view.

Of course in the heat of the debate tempers can get frayed but the Conservative Party remains a broad church or it is nothing.

I do not agree with those who opposed the party's policy on the single currency, but they have the same right to continue to argue their case as Winston Churchill did when he was in a tiny minority after Munich.

Likewise, those who wish to go further and seek a permanent rejection of the single currency have a perfect right to argue the case within our party. We must not make the same foolish mistake as Tony Blair and seek to stifle legitimate, constructive and friendly debate and dissent.

The referendum has given the party a clear policy, with which I agree, and which has been approved by an overwhelming majority. The public now knows what the Conservative Party stands for and that it is a different policy to that of the Government. This is healthy and in the public interest.

If a small minority at either end of the European spectrum does not like the policy they remain free to criticise it, but both majority and minority must relate to each other as one would expect of colleagues in the same party. Intolerant zealots do not win elections; nor do they deserve to.

Sir MALCOLM RIFKIND

Inveresk, East Lothian

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