Hague defiant as EU Tories split
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Monday 17 May 1999
The Pro Euro Conservative Party, which will contest all 84 seats in next month's European Parliament elections, declared that they were "about the future of the Conservative Party."
John Stevens, a former Tory Euro MP and a founder of the rebel party, said: "We find it incredible that in five short years the party which was once the major pro-European force in British politics has become little more than a campaigning organisation for Eurosceptism. The time has come for pro-Europeans to take a stand against this suicidal process."
Mr Stevens said the new party, which wants Britain to join the single currency as soon as possible, would give a voice to disillusioned centre- ground voters. "This is their chance to protest against the hijacking of their party," he said.
Although leading Tory Europhiles, such as Mr Heseltine, are expected to distance themselves from the breakaway party, Brendan Donnelly, its co-founder, said: "The fact is that we are standing on his policies, we are standing on Ken Clarke's policy."
Yesterday it emerged that Mr Heseltine may decide to stay on as an MP after the general election to campaign for Britain to join the euro. He had been expected to retire as MP for Henley, where some Tory activists have been pressing him to stand down.
Mr Portillo fuelled the Tory debate by suggesting that Mr Heseltine's constant criticism of Mr Hague's policy had made him "irrelevant". Speaking on GMTV's Sunday Morning programme, Mr Portillo admitted Mr Heseltine was "a very big beast of the jungle" but said he should "knuckle under" and accept the Tory party's decision to rule out joining the euro in this Parliament and the next.
Mr Portillo praised Mr Hague for making the single currency a key issue in the Tory campaign. But he confirmed that he would turn down any approach by Mr Hague to become his party chairman, saying he was "enjoying my independence at the moment".
Despite the potential threat from the rebel party, Mr Hague is sticking to his Eurosceptic guns. The Tory manifesto for next month's elections will attack Labour and the Liberal Democrats for "scrapping the pound regardless of the economic and political consequences". Mr Hague will warn that signing up to the single currency would involve "huge risks" for Britain.
But in an election broadcast tonight, Labour will claim it "is setting the agenda for reform in Europe while the Tories are divided and extreme".
The Liberal Democrats will unveil their manifesto for the 10 June Euro elections today, promising a Europe that is "democratic not bureaucratic, decentralised not dictatorial". The Tories will follow tomorrow and Labour on Wednesday.
Margaret Beckett, the Commons leader and Labour's campaign co-ordinator, said the party would "ruthlessly expose the contrast between the strong leadership offered by Tony Blair and the weakness of the Tories' lame- duck loser, William Hague".
- 1 Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show movie
- 2 Man cooked alive with 12,000 pounds of tuna
- 3 X Factor in crisis as numbers of people auditioning plummets
- 4 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
- 5 Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
Bali Nine executions live: Indonesian firing squad shoots dead eight drug offenders despite outcry around world, but a ninth is spared
Keith Harris dead: Orville the Duck ventriloquist dies aged 67 following battle with cancer
Man cooked alive with 12,000 pounds of tuna
General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...
£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...
£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...
£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...