Politics: Hague faces anger of Tory activists

William Hague will today relaunch his campaign to win party backing for his leadership and his reforms. Colin Brown, reports that he faces a revolt among the ranks.
Click to follow
Tory MPs will retain control over the candidates and the timing for the election of a new leader, in spite of the radical reforms to the Conservative Party promised by William Hague in the wake of their most disastrous election defeat this century.

After one of the worst weeks in his leadership, Mr Hague will today tell party activists that "no change is not an option" but the reforms his officials are proposing will fall short of one-member, one-vote democracy for the Tory party members.

Party sources confirmed last night that a consultation paper, to be unveiled at the party conference by Archie Norman, a vice chairman of the party, will propose that MPs should retain power to nominate candidates for the election of a leader; and that they should keep control over the timing of elections.

That would still enable the MPs to throw out a leader it believed had become an electoral liability, as it did with Baroness Thatcher. A compromise is being offered over the participation of rank-and-file members in the elections.

The party will try to calm the anger of some activists by offering a range of options for an electoral college, but MPs will retain the majority of the votes. Party sources are predicting they will have to concede a higher proportion to the party membership, but it will not go as high as 50 per cent.

Eric Chalker, an officer of the party's voluntary body, the National Union, said the grandees in the 1922 Committee were "fighting back" to prevent the membership gaining more powers over the Tory party.