Politics: Tory defector finds New Labour very agreeable

Peter Temple-Morris yesterday crossed the floor of the Commons to sit with Labour, as William Hague's office denied there would be purge of the wets. Colin Brown, Chief Political Correspondent, reports.
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Peter Temple-Morris yesterday said he was happier chatting to Labour MPs than he had been among his former colleagues on the Tory benches.

"I think it's much easier for me with new Labour. Many of the new intake are socially very agreeable," he said, after crossing the floor from the Tory benches to sit behind Tony Blair as an Independent One Nation Conservative.

"I used to walk into the members' dining room and look around with a sense of desperation to find someone I wanted to dine with. It won't be like that now."

As a veteran Tory wet, with strongly pro-European views, and a commitment to a united Ireland with consent, Mr Temple-Morris may even find himself to left of Mr Blair on some issues.

He resigned from the Tory Party after William Hague removed the whip from him for admitting he had been talking to Labour. Tory leadership sources said: "There is not going to be a purge. Temple- Morris was a one-off."

But the Tory leadership could face renewed trouble over the Amsterdam Treaty after Bill Cash and the Euro-sceptics tabled a series of amendments to the Government's Bill, putting the treaty into effect.

The Tory front bench may avoid deepening the split in its ranks by resisting the temptation to put down a series of amendments, but it is opposing the treaty. The Positive Europeans on the Tory backbench, led by Kenneth Clarke and Michael Heseltine, are keeping their powder dry to attack the selection of Tory candidates for the European elections, if the Tory leadership tries to select a list of Euro-sceptics.

Meanwhile, Mr Hague has consolidated his hold over this party by moving into Tory Central Office at Smith Square. Those close to Mr Hague strongly denied reports that Alan Duncan had been sacked as one of his key advisers.

"Alan is a close personal friend, and will continue to be close to the leadership," said a Hague confidant. Mr Hague may seek to reunite the party by putting his Euro-sceptic stance to a vote of the entire party, but it will be as part of a manifesto package, and will not be put to a vote in isolation.