Politics: Patten lays down marker for tilt at future Tory leadership fight

By signing yesterday's letter to the Independent challenging William Hague's leadership on Europe, Chris Patten has sided firmly with the pro- European wing of the Tory party. Our Chief Political Correspondent on the battle for the soul of the Conservative Party.

The former Hong Kong governor's decision to sign the letter to the Independent was seen by his friends as a move to put down a marker against the Tory leader's scepticism over the single European currency.

"He has made it clear he is not trying to catch the ephemeral mood of the Tory party. It indicates to William Hague that there are forces who are more contemporary than Geoffrey Howe that are not prepared to see the Tory party hijacked by the Euro-sceptics," said one senior Tory who signed the letter.

Mr Patten, who recently bought a house in west London, where he spent New Year before planning a return to his farmhouse in France, has told allies he is not making up his mind about whether to seek a seat in the Commons until the autumn, when he has finished writing his book. The former party chairman has his own "Hurdish" doubts about the euro but regards the euro debate as the most important issue facing Britain and Europe since Bretton Woods, and it is "not tenable" for the Tories to suspend any decision for 10 years.

Lord Howe was behind the decision to organise the letter, and he persuaded Mr Patten to sign it last Friday. The former foreign secretary has taken a leading stand in warning the present leadership of the Tory party that the euro enthusiasts have been silent too long and will not stand back while the party is taken over by the Euro-sceptics around Mr Hague.

Lord Howe delivered his first warning in a letter to Lord Parkinson, the party chairman, before Christmas, described by his allies as "stinging". The letter warned the party chairman that they were prepared to speak out to challenge Mr Hague's policy of ruling out a single currency for 10 years. That was followed by a meeting shortly before Christmas at Central Office with a delegation of the officers of the Tory Positive European Group, led by Kenneth Clarke, to leave the party chairman in no doubt that they meant business.

Those who attended included Sir Ray Whitney, a right-winger who is pro- Euro, Ian Taylor, a former minister and David Curry, the former agriculture minister. Both Mr Taylor and Mr Curry had resigned from Mr Hague's front bench in protest at his line on Europe.

Some members of their group warned Stephen Dorrell, the shadow education secretary, that he could not remain on the fence. Mr Dorrell and Sir George Young, the other pro-Euro spokesman in the shadow cabinet, decided to stay, but are now under pressure to speak out. They were joined by Michael Jack, another pro-Euro Tory, who replaced Mr Curry. The underlying question about the letter is whether it will lead to a final split in the Tory party, with the pro-Euros leaving to form an independent rump on the Tory benches.

They could follow Peter Temple-Morris, who is now an independent sitting with Labour, and Hugh Dykes, who defected to the Liberal Democrats after losing his seat.

The introduction of voting by proportional representation for Westminster elections would almost guarantee a split. But Sir Edward Heath has made it clear he is staying put, whatever happens.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
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
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
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

Business Development Manager (District Heating)

£55000 Per Annum plus company car and bonus scheme: The Green Recruitment Comp...

Lead Hand - QC

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Lead Hand - QCProgressive are recruiting...

Chemical Engineer/Project Coordinator

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Chemical Eng...

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn