Our party is a broad church. Let's keep it that way

How could everyone with free-market principles have the same view on the timing of entry into EMU?

I WELL remember when Enoch Powell advised people not to vote Conservative in a general election. From that moment, whatever his philosophic views or his political history, he knew he could no longer be a member of the party. The same principle must obtain in the European elections. When Dr Adrian Rogers, formally the Tory candidate in Exeter, responded to a letter I wrote in The Daily Telegraph by advising people to vote for the United Kingdom Independence Party, the Conservative Party chairman withdrew his membership.

Nor could he have done otherwise. If a party has a central membership, it cannot be extended to those who actively campaign for the defeat of its official candidates. That, after all, is the example followed in local associations when Conservative membership was entirely local. If you stood against the Tory choice in a local election, you normally found your membership terminated.

Exactly the same principle has been applied to those who worked for the Referendum Party in the last election, and to those who stand for the Pro-Euro Conservative Party in these European elections. William Hague is establishing nothing new. He is properly applying the consequence of having a national party membership.

Indeed, it was the intended consequence. The Hamilton affair (disgraceful though the Parliamentary procedure was) highlighted the inability of the Tory Party to sack anyone, however embarrassing their conduct. Only the local Association could do that. National membership was therefore seen as a necessary part of any reform. Now that it is in place, it would be impossible not to apply the long-standing principle that, even in as broad a church as the Conservative Party, no member can properly campaign for any other political party.

In a real sense, this is a protection of that broad church. It ensures that we can have the widest possible debate and represent a necessarily broad spectrum of opinion. Nevertheless we must be at one in elections, in preferring a Conservative candidate above all others. Indeed, apart from particular incidents of moral or criminal delinquency, this is the only test of fitness which party membership entails. By insisting upon this we make plain that, this apart, there is absolute freedom for Conservatives to hold and voice their views. So we contrast pretty starkly with New Labour, where the control freaks have won the day.

Nowhere is that freedom more important than on European issues. There is genuinely and properly a national debate about the euro, as there is about almost every aspect of our relationship with our nearest neighbours. It would be unthinkable that that debate should not be reflected within the Conservative Party. How could it be true that everyone who holds free- market principles would have exactly the same view about the timing of our entry into a single currency.

In that debate we do need to be talking as colleagues and not as opponents. The party needs a John Redwood as it needs a Michael Heseltine. They are the proper guarantors that the broad church has not degenerated into a sect. William Hague recognises that, and it explains why he both emphasises that the euro has to be tested in good times as well as in bad, and insists that we could not rule out membership for ever. That is not just a compromise, it is a proper reflection of the situation in Britain today.

Of course, Hague is under pressure by absolutists on either side. Yesterday's letter to The Times by Conservatives attracted by the Pro-Euro candidates is the mirror of those so often published by The Daily Telegraph, which insist that we should vote for parties who want to withdraw from Europe altogether. Both sides press the leadership to espouse their position as a means of gaining power. Yet neither stance is a proper one for a Conservative.

Clearly, to propose a future for Britain outside the EU would be economically, historically, culturally and geographically nonsense, and would consign any party who espoused it to permanent opposition. Yet to suggest that we should join the euro come what may, with no consideration of rates, terms, conditions or timing, makes no sense either. Being in favour of the European ideal does not mean you have to sign up to its every manifestation on every occasion, favourable or not.

The problem with the debate is that we are constantly polarised. What is important is the language and the tone. "In Europe, not run by Europe" is a perfectly proper slogan as long as we recognise that both halves of the proposition have equal weight. We must not allow the absolutists to run off with either bit, ignoring the other.

Britain is permanently committed to our membership of the European Union and wants it to succeed. Our place there was forged by Conservatives, and the nature of the union has been fundamentally changed by Conservatives. Mr Heath took us in and one of Mrs Thatcher's lasting memorials will be the single market, with all the changes in European law which that implied. Of course, we have made it harder for ourselves because we did not join up at the beginning. Attlee and Eden bear a heavy responsibility for having allowed Britain to miss out on the original Common Market. A Europe originally built for seven and not six would have been better today.

Yet that does not mean we should avoid being tough about the radical changes that are needed now. Not being run by Europe implies that Britain does not intend to be rolled over by others. We need to give notice that we shall be fighting for an open Europe and against protectionism; that we are not federalists but believe in subsidiarity and the nation state; that we will retain ultimate control of our taxation. These stipulations are made not because we are anti-European, but because we are Conservatives. We do not want a bloated European structure any more than we want a bloated British system. We believe in small government as a political principle, and it applies universally.

The national equivalent of our European slogan is "Committed to Britain, but not to being bossed about by British Governments". It's the traditional Conservative slogan and I, as a believer in Britain's European destiny, will be voting for it.

Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'