Hague's pounds 300,000 poll is a `waste' waste, says Clarke

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The Independent Online
KENNETH CLARKE last night claimed the pounds 300,000 being spent by William Hague on the party's referendum on the European single currency was a waste of money.

Barely hiding his contempt for the referendum, the former Chancellor told the Tory leader to "stop holding these `back me or sack me' ballots."

He said Mr Hague's leadership was secure, and rumours that he was plotting against the leader had been created by Euro-sceptics to force Mr Hague into holding the ballot.

The former Chancellor's attack sparked an angry response from Tory Central Office, which accused Mr Clarke of being out of touch with the membership of the party.

The row over Mr Hague's referendum on the European single currency is now certain to overshadow next month's Tory Party conference and threatened to sabotage today's launch by the Tory leadership of the party's conference agenda.

The Tory leadership had hoped to claim support of many party constituency associations for Mr Hague's policy of ruling out entry to the single currency for at least another Parliament.

But Mr Clarke's comments over Europe wrecked any hope of the Tory leadership being able to present a united front for the conference. Mr Clarke, clearly stung by criticism by Mr Hague over his refusal to take part in the referendum campaign, retaliated with a statement saying there was no point in holding the ballot of the party membership.