Mawhinney calls for order in Euro row

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The Independent Online
The Tory Party leadership yesterday ordered a clamp down on ministers to avoid further damaging gaffes over Europe wrecking the annual Conservative Party conference.

Brian Mawhinney, the Tory Party chairman, told a political meeting of the Cabinet yesterday that he had ordered ministers to clear their speeches with him before addressing fringe meetings at the party conference in Bournemouth.

At least three Euro-sceptic Cabinet ministers will be caught by the new ruling. Peter Lilley, Michael Howard and Michael Forsyth are all speaking at right-wing fringe meetings and will have to submit their speeches to the party chairman for approval.

The move follows the attack on Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, by the junior foreign office minister, Sir Nicholas Bonsor. It is part of an effort by the party leadership to restore discipline to their long-term general election campaign after a week of public relations disasters.

Ministers are under orders to present a confident message to voters that the Government has a clear policy direction for the millennium and beyond. John Major told Cabinet colleagues the conference should be forward looking and full of practical and realistic proposals.

Dr Mawhinney claimed the Tories' "New Labour, New Danger" campaign unveiled in the summer, powerfully reinforced the voters' belief that Labour would tax more and inflation and mortgages would both rise. Voters also fear the unions would hold the whip hand under a Blair government.

The Prime Minister has urged ministers to emphasise Tory plans to improve living standards and education, continue the law and order campaign, and the crackdown on social security fraud.

The Prime Minister also confirmed that Government policy on the single currency and Britain's opt-out at Cabinet would not change, inspite of the continued pressure from the Tory Euro-sceptics, but the right wing show no signs of letting up in their campaign to rule out Britain's entry into a single currency.