Hague expels pro-euro grandees

TWO TORY grandees have been expelled from the party by William Hague for rebelling against his eurosceptic stand in the European elections.

Lord Gilmour, one of the leading wets in Margaret Thatcher's first cabinet, and the former MP Sir Julian Critchley, were told by Michael Ancram, the party chairman, that their support for the breakaway Pro European Conservative Party's candidates was "incompatible with continued membership of the Conservative Party".

Mr Ancram gave the two senior Tories a chance to recant, but they brushed aside the offer with contempt, and dismissed Mr Hague as a "young man in a hurry".

It was intended as a smack of firm leadership by Mr Hague, but Lord Gilmour, a former deputy Foreign Secretary to Lord Carrington, replied that Mr Hague bore the hallmark of weak and unpopular leaders.

Accusing Mr Hague of moving the Tories further to the right, Lord Gilmour, a former editor of the Spectator, said: "The party is becoming that rare and dismal thing: a doctrinaire sect without charismatic leaders.

"It is the hallmark of sects that as they grow smaller and more ineffectual they become more intolerant ... It is equally, I fear, the hallmark of weak and unpopular leaders to be eager to put their small feet down, usually in the wrong place on unimportant matters.

He added: "The present Conservative Party is the only one, so far as I know, in recent Conservative or Labour Party history whose parliamentary party is more extreme than its supporters in the country."

Sir Julian also showed no sign of regret. "This is political correctness gone mad. How much wiser Mr Hague would have been to forget the whole business, but then, he is a young man in a hurry," he said.

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