March in step or else, says Hague

William Hague, the new Conservative leader, has tightened his grip on the party by striking a blow against powerful pressure groups of MPs.

In a move reminiscent of Labour's centralising reforms, Mr Hague has ordered all his front bench team to abandon membership of groups that organise slates in internal elections.

His direct attack on the factionalism which dogged the party in the last parliament is likely to end the influence of gatherings such as the 92 Group of right-wing MPs, the Positive European group and the Macleod group on the pro-European left.

Mr Hague has also insisted on greater co-ordination of his party's media message, with shadow ministers being asked to clear interview requests with his parliamentary political secretary, Alan Duncan.

Mr Duncan is being presented as the party's answer to Peter Mandelson - Labour's former director of campaigns and communications and now a minister.

One senior Conservative source said last week: "We have learnt a lot of lessons and we will have to update, but this will make Peter Mandelson look amateur. There is a renewed sense of purpose."

During the last decade the party's internal groups have played a leading role within the party's structures. The No Turning Back group and the Thatcherite 92 group were powerful forces on the right. The pro-Europeans struggled to match the right in terms of organisation, founding several groupings to try to fight back. The Mainstream group formed the basis of Kenneth Clarke's leadership bid, with backing from 70 MPs.

There was also a stern warning to Conservatives who leak from shadow Cabinet meetings. The source said: "Breaking shadow Cabinet confidences will be regarded as a capital offence."

Meanwhile there was evidence that Mr Hague had used his discretion in applying his "loyalty test" over the single currency. Shadow ministers in departments unrelated to foreign affairs will not be asked to promote the anti-single-currency line but will be expected to abide by it in public.

The Conservatives sought to keep up pressure on Tony Blair over allegations that Ron Davies, Secretary of State for Wales, threatened one of his backbenchers, Llew Smith, over his opposition to devolution. That claim was denied by Mr Blair last week in the Commons but repeated by Mr Smith the same day. Nigel Evans, opposition spokesman on Wales, called for Mr Davies to resign if he is unable to explain the allegations. He said: "Ron can run but he can't hide for much longer."

t Sir Edward Heath, the former Conservative prime minister, has dismissed Mr Hague as "a tragedy for the party". Speaking in Hong Kong, Sir Edward said: "He's got no ideas, no experience and no hope."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas