Eurosceptic challenges Hague to expel him

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The Independent Online
A FORMER Tory MP who has threatened to stand against "federalist" Conservative candidates in the next year's Euro elections has declared that he is prepared to be expelled from the party for his beliefs.

Nicholas Budgen, former MP for Wolverhampton South West and a leading Eurosceptic, said that he was unconcerned by threats to kick him and fellow former Northampton North MP Tony Marlow out of the party.

"I would be sorry to be expelled, but if there were greater consequences then I would be more frightened. What are they going to do, hang draw and quarter me?" he said yesterday.

Mr Budgen and Mr Marlow, who lost their seats at the last election, have infuriated the party leadership with their plans to stand in the elections on an anti-federalist ticket.

Both men failed in their attempt to become official Tory candidates for the elections next May and claim that "Euro fanatics" were selected instead. The former MPs are understood to have approached Paul Sykes, the businessman who last year offered cash support to all candidates he deemed Eurosceptic enough, to help fund their campaign.

Both Mr Marlow and Mr Budgen were persistent critics of John Major's "wait and see" approach to Britain's entry to European Monetary Union.

Mr Budgen said yesterday that he fully understood that he and other Tory members risked expulsion if they stood as independents.

"Central Office are not going to concede that the Euro selections have been rigged by the Europhiles and there is not a lot we can do about that unless we take legal action, which I don't want to do," he said. "I had hoped that the party would get a broad-based ticket for the elections, but they haven't.

"The Europhiles have undoubtedly been determined to sweep us and and they have done so." The Tory party's new ethics and integrity committee, due to be set up this autumn, may consider the case of the two former MPs with a view to expulsion.

A spokesman for Conservative Central Office confirmed that such challenges to official candidates would be a matter for the new committee. "We have a first rate slate of candidates across the country," he said. "We do not expect other Conservatives to stand against them in the European elections.

"We would take the matter extremely seriously if these people stood against the democratically selected candidates.

"It was constituency chairman and ordinary members who selected them so they cannot be out of step with the party."

Tory leader William Hague is already facing criticism from Europhile MPs at the party conference in October for his tough stance against a single currency.

Senior figures from the last government, including Kenneth Clarke, Michael Heseltine and Stephen Dorrell, are planning fringe meetings attacking the Eurosceptic policy adopted by Mr Hague.