Tories sink deeper into civil war

Clarke slams 'paranoid nonsense' on Europe as Blair gets tough over single currency

Civil war over Europe broke out in the Conservative Party yesterday when Chancellor Kenneth Clarke branded fears over the EU as "paranoid nonsense", and the party was forced to shelve its controversial advertisement showing Tony Blair as a dummy on the knee of the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl.

In a barely coded challenge to the party's right, Mr Clarke said: "The European Union is not a threat. Leading European politicians are not a threat. We should leave that paranoid nonsense to people in the Referendum Party."

Mr Clarke's comments came as the Conservatives were forced - amid protests from pro-European Tories - to shelve their Eurosceptic advertisement. At least 10 former MPs, including the former foreign secretary, Douglas Hurd, complained to Downing Street yesterday about its anti-European tone.

The Labour leader, Tony Blair, took advantage of the Tory disarray, outflanking his opponents by taking one of his toughest- ever stands on a single currency and voicing concerns about the way the EU is developing.

In an interview with the Independent on Sunday, he stressed his willingness to be isolated in the EU if necessary, listed a series of economic and constitutional objections to monetary union, and said he would not surrender tax-raising powers to Brussels.

Mr Blair branded the Conservatives a "degenerate" party. In a marked hardening of Labour's language, he sought to reassure sceptical voters, arguing that while he did not seek isolation as a policy: "You must always be prepared to be isolated if it is in the national interest."

But it was the Eurosceptic advertisement caricaturing Mr Blair which dominated the Conservative slanging match.

Sir Edward Heath, the former prime minister, told BBC's Newsnight: "The publicity of the party so far has been quite appalling, absolutely awful, ineffective, and in fact offensive." Asked about the Blair advertisement, he added: "Senior members of my own party thought it was abhorrent." Sir Edward called for the sacking of the author of the advertisement, apparently oblivious to Tory claims that the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine, was its originator.

The Chancellor publicly defended it, insisting it was not anti-German: "I take it to be aimed at Tony Blair, in the long-hallowed tradition of political caricature, to say he is not in the first division of European statesmen."

But one source said the Chancellor "was not amused and was not consulted". Another said the Eurosceptic campaign theme from Central Office had reached its high-water mark, and that the Tories would return to the attack on the economy this week.

Lord Howe, the former foreign secretary, also attacked the advert. Ian Taylor, Minister for Science, told Radio 4's Today programme: "That advertisement helps the view that Europe is a threat and our allies in Europe are somehow threatening."

While keeping formally to the "wait and see" policy, Mr Blair added that joining a single currency had "constitutional and political implications", though these were not necessarily insuperable. He listed a range of economic problems, arguing: "You are yielding up the ability to get the exchange rate flexibility which is one way of dealing with changing economic circumstances."

And the Labour leader said he would not agree with any proposals to give up tax-raising powers - matching a pledge Mr Major gave last week.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before