Major in last-ditch appeal to Tory right

Defeat would hurl party 'into abyss'

DONALD MACINTYRE

and COLIN BROWN

John Major last night warned the Tory party that his own removal would propel it into an electoral "abyss" as he set about reassuring Eurosceptic MPs on the eve of a crucial meeting with the right-wing 92 Group tonight.

Mr Major began an urgent personal canvass of floating voters to force his level of support in tomorrow's vote above the danger level after publicly promising that there would be no "recriminations" against his right-of- centre opponents.

While the Prime Minister's ministerial supporters continued to insist that Mr Major would win decisively under the rules, there were signs of anxiety over whether the Mr Major had yet secured enough support to ensure that the party was governable under his leadership.

In a stark appeal to the party to unite behind him, Mr Major said it would be "madness" to allow "deepening disunity" to allow the "socialists to walk away with the prize". In an article for today's Daily Telegraph, he says the party has a choice between jumping "into the abyss" or "finishing this business" by delivering a decisive vote for him tomorrow.

In a clear setback for the Prime Minister, the Telegraph says in an editorial "It is time for Mr Major to go" and give another leader the chance to "save the Tories".

The Major campaign yesterday sought to bolster his support with a clear signal to the Tory right that they had no cause to oppose the Prime Minister. The moves came after one of his leading Cabinet allies said that the party needed him to win "very substantially".

Mr Major was personally telephoning a series of uncommitted MPs from Downing Street as his campaigners went all out to convince right-wing MPs that he would not allow the centre-left of the party to exploit a low vote for his challenger John Redwood by shifting the party to a more overtly pro-European stance.

"I am not in the business of recriminations. I am not a factional politician. I want a United Kingdom, a united party. And I believe in the politics of persuasion," he told Sir David Frost on BBC Television.

The Prime Minister did not budge from his line last week that he would not rule out a single currency. But he sought to reassure the right by again holding out the prospect that Britain could lead those countries which decided to stay out of European Monetary Union in 1999.

Mr Major appeared last night to be treading a delicate path between reassurance of the right and the need not to alienate centre-left MPs who might abstain in order to boost the prospects of a second ballot which might allow Michael Heseltine to enter the contest. Mr Major brushed aside the claim in a leaflet produced by the Redwood campaign that the Tories had "no chance" without a change, adding: "The Conservative Party wins elections from the centre-right. That is where I stand."

Mr Major's newspaper article today is clearly directed at all strands of the party. Ian Lang, the Secretary of State for Scotland, said on BBC Television's On the Record: "I sense that the coming together of the party is to recognise that the Prime Minister is going to win on Tuesday and that it is in all our interests that he should win very substantially." But while Mr Lang insisted Mr Major would "win big", ministers in private appeared to be preparing for a relatively narrow margin of victory by drawing attention to the precedent of the 60 per cent vote secured by Tony Blair in the Labour leadership contest.

Although the official line of the Major campaign continues to be that the Prime Minister can expect to stay in office however narrowly he wins, an exact parallel with the Blair result would give him just under 200 with Mr Redwood a relatively impressive 132 votes - a showing some MPs believe would be the very minimum he would require to resist pressure to step down.

A poll in the Sunday Express predicted that Mr Major would secure 224 votes to 60 for Mr Redwood and 45 abstentions.

A number of right-of-centre MPs will wait until tonight's 92 Group meeting, which will also be addressed by Mr Redwood, before deciding how to vote.

News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
people
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Real Staffing - Leeds - £18k+

£18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sales - Trainee Recruitment Co...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Progressive Rec.

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Progressive Recruitment are cu...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices