Major is prepared to forgive foolish Tories

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The Independent Online
JOHN MAJOR redoubled his efforts yesterday to promote 'back to basics', amid reports of a fresh constituency challenge over a minister's personal life and a government aide's resignation over a property deal, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

The Prime Minister insisted that recent controversies had not invalidated the policy, and ruled out 'witch- hunts' against people who behaved foolishly.

John Smith, the Labour leader said the policy had collapsed: 'You get a different formulation every time you hear it explained.'

Speaking in detail on the BBC's Frost on Sunday for the first since the enforced resignation of Tim Yeo last week for fathering a child in an extramarital affair, the Prime Minister drew a distinction between 'silly indiscretion', for which people had tolerance, and bad behaviour which should mean resignation.

As Tory officals in the Suffolk South consituency of Mr Yeo digested the admission in Sunday newspapers that he fathered another baby before he was married, Tory activists in Epping, Essex, said the reselection of their MP, Steven Norris, Under-Secretary for Transport, was not automatic. Mr Norris was told to adopt a 'more suitable' private life after reports of affairs.

A report that a Tory MP had left his wife because of a friendship with a man added to government misery.

Labour meanwhile claimed that a 'large question' remained about the cut-price purchase of a former council house in fashionable Gayfere Street, Westminster, by Alan Duncan, the MP for Rutland and Melton.

Mr Duncan resigned as parliamentary private secretary to Brian Mawhinney, Health Minister, within hours of Saturday's disclosure that he made a pounds 140,000 loan in 1990 to his elderly neighbour to acquire the property under the right to buy. The neighbour sold the property on to the MP and has lifetime rent-free occupancy.

Grassroots anger, page 2

Leading article, page 13

James Fenton, page 14