Grandees faced by grassroot rebellion

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The Independent Online
An angry backlash from Tory supporters was last night growing against party grandees who denied them a say in the selection of the Conservative leader.

"They are furious," said one Tory MP last night. Their anger is directed at Sir Archie Hamilton, the newly elected chairman of the 1922 Committee, who opposed any immediate change in the rules to allow the constituencies their say.

But the dismay is also directed at Robin Hodgson, chairman of the voluntary wing, the National Union, for falling into line with Sir Archie's promises of a review of the rules.

The Tory grandees, who act as the shop stewards for Tory backbenchers, are accused of being out of touch with the constituencies, and there was open revolt being threatened.

Tory MPs were warned of a "serious risk of insurrection" by the Conservative MEP Graham Mather who said some local activists were up in arms over the ruling at the meeting of the 1922 Committee on Thursday. The executive of one local party was believed to be on the verge of resignation.

"There is a serious risk the party will have two leaders - one chosen by the parliamentary party and the other chosen by ourselves," said Mr Mather.

William Hague, the youngest leadership challenger at 36, promised in Bristol last night to revive the party.

He said it should try to double its membership within two years, and of making sure half of the new members were younger than the new leader.