Former Thatcher ally is expelled by Tories

Lord McAlpine, a close ally of Baroness Thatcher, was expelled from the Conservative Party in the House of Lords yesterday in the wake of his defection to Sir James Goldsmith's Referendum Party.

Lord McAlpine, who as Alastair McAlpine was treasurer of the Tory party in the Eighties, has been a thorn in the side of John Major's government since he declared to the New Statesman last year that the Tories might benefit from a period in opposition.

He declared his support for Sir James's party, set up to promote the single demand of a referendum on the nature of Britain's membership of the European Union, as long ago as March. But it was only when he announced that he had actually joined the Referendum Party on the weekend before this month's Tory conference in Bournemouth that his expulsion became inevitable.

He was informed of the decision a week ago by the Government's chief whip in the Lords, Lord Strathclyde - two days before the Referendum Party's inaugural conference in Brighton, which he chaired.

A Referendum Party spokeswoman said: "As was made clear throughout our party conference, we believe there is no incompatibility between being a member of a traditional political party and a supporter of the Referendum Party.

"We do not ask people to abandon their traditional parties. Once we have obtained a referendum, the Referendum Party will dissolve. That is written into our constitution."

Tory officials had suggested that Lord McAlpine's party membership was a matter for his local Tory association. But, as his main home is in Venice, he does not have one.

The decision to remove the whip constitutes an embarrassment for Mr Major, who has tried to suggest that the Referendum Party is of "marginal" importance to British politics, and that its intervention in the next election would affect all parties equally.

Lord McAlpine's openness about his role as chief fundraiser for the Tories when Lady Thatcher was the Prime Minister has also embarrassed her chosen successor.

But it was the insults he heaped on Mr Major which made the removal of the Tory whip certain. The day after joining the Referendum Party, he accused the Prime Minister of "turning indecision into a virtue".

In the Euro-sceptic European newspaper, he said "a small bunch of self- confident and arrogant politicians" were stealing Britain's democratic rights.

The dilemma of Tory leaders is that, whether or not Lord McAlpine takes the party whip, his comments will be read as reflecting the views of the circle around Lady Thatcher, whose disappointment in her successor is well-known.

Lord McAlpine's disillusionment first surfaced in March 1995, when he prescribed a spell in opposition for the Tories as "a good cleansing. It does a party good. It gives it time to rethink and reform and become revitalised".

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - OTE £37,000

£16000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The ideal candidate will want t...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada