Pro-Euro party threatens to split Tories
Sunday 21 February 1999
John Stevens and Brendan Donnelly, who left the Conservative party last month in protest at Mr Hague's negative stance towards Europe, will seek to register the Pro-Euro Conservative party as an official political body.
They want to split the mainstream Tory party by attracting those members opposed to Mr Hague's Euro-sceptic views.
"All we are doing is what the sceptics did before us - they strong-armed the Conservative party in the most brutal way," said Mr Stevens, leader of the new party. "The pro-Europeans were herbivores then, whereas the Euro-sceptics were carnivores. Now we are going to have a real fight. I am not interested in gestures. I am interested in dealing a serious blow."
The two MEPs, who will be funded personally by Mr Stevens, a millionaire former currency dealer, intend to field candidates against the official Conservatives in the European parliamentary elections in June.
They have the backing of Paul Howell, who was a speech writer for Baroness Thatcher and Sir Edward Heath and a Tory member of the European Parliament from 1979-1994.
"It is not me who has changed my views on Europe. It is the Conservative party which changed its views," said Mr Howell. "The situation saddens me very much. I will stand against the Conservative party willingly."
The dissident Tory MEPs have not ruled out fielding a candidate in the elections for the new London assembly or the forthcoming general election. But they are expected to stop campaigning if the Conservative party abandons its Euro-sceptic stance.
Most Europhile Conservatives opposed to Mr Hague's commitment to stay out of a European single currency say they would not join the rebel MEPs because they want to influence change from within. Instead, they favour a leadership bid by the former Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, who is in favour of closer links with other EU countries.
"I don't think Kenneth Clarke should be ruled out for the leadership if things go horribly wrong for Hague," said one Tory MEP. "We are waiting to see what happens. If Clarke was leader the whole Euro-sceptic episode could be shelved."
Last week Mr Stevens commissioned a MORI poll which suggested that a breakaway party could gain 11 per cent of the vote in the forthcoming Euro-election. The survey also indicated that support for the Conservatives could slump to 17 per cent in the June poll.
The breakaway party may also decide to field candidates under the banner "European party" - a name which it will also register this week.
Tory Central Office is considering mounting a legal challenge to the registration of a rival name but is thought unlikely to pursue the matter in the courts. It is still possible, however, that the official Registrar of Political Parties will refuse to accept the name, because of the potential for confusion with the "official" Tories.
"The formation of the party is a big step towards contesting the European elections," said Mr Donnelly MEP. "When these formalities are out of the way we can concentrate on winning support and raising funds."
- 1 JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 4 Video shows what happens when lava is poured onto ice
- 5 Cate Blanchett loses temper during interview: 'That's your f**king question?'
Andreas Lubitz: Who is Germanwings co-pilot who 'locked out captain and crashed flight 9525'?
Germanwings crash: The poignant final photograph taken by Iranian journalist on doomed flight after watching Barcelona play Real Madrid
#FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Cate Blanchett loses temper during interview: 'That's your f**king question?'
Jeremy Clarkson calls on trolls to leave producer Oisin Tymon alone: 'None of this is his fault'
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Vote Ukip, says far-right group Britain First
£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...