Former MP faces Hague crackdown

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A senior former Tory MP, Sir John Gorst, is facing expulsion from his party today in a crackdown on local party rebellion by William Hague.

A Conservative Party hearing is expected to recommend the dissolution of Sir John's Hendon association, effectively expelling its members.

Tory officials are insisting the move follows alleged irregularities. But Sir John said last night it was a move to punish the party for supporting him in voting against the past government over the closure of a casualty unit.

"This is a test case. It is about how the Tory Party is government and whether the grass roots has the right to speak up for the grass on which they live," he said.

"This is a cynical operation using a handful of malcontents to ensure that those who voiced dissent are snuffed out of politics. If party headquarters succeeds, you can say goodbye to independent Conservative MPs and local parties." On 1 May, Sir John lost his seat to Labour after 25 years.

The chairman of the association is George Ward, the head of the Grunwick processing firm, which was involved in a lengthy trade union battle in the 1970s. Mr Ward last night confirmed he had recruited to the party association his two sons and a number of employees, some of whom lived many miles outside the constituency.

But Mr Ward denied any impropriety in recruiting from his own workforce. Mr Ward, who pays Sir John a retainer, accused Mr Hague's leadership of producing a "new climate of intolerance"