The moderate, all-inclusive image which William Hague tried to convey yesterday came under fire almost immediately from the more extreme elements in his party. Lord Tebbit made a fringe speech claiming immigrants could not be loyal to "two nations", while the controversial MP Alan Clark suggested killing the entire IRA in one night.
In the question and answer session, one Tory supporter asked the Kensington and Chelsea MP how to deal with the IRA. The former minister replied: "The only solution for dealing with the IRA is to kill 600 people in one night - let the UN [United Nations] and [US President] Bill Clinton and everyone else make a scene - and it is over for 20 years."
But he prefaced his comments by saying that everyone knew his view, which he said he had committed to print in the past.
Afterwards, Lord Parkinson, the party chairman, delivered a strong repudiation. "Alan's remarks have just been made and we've already made it absolutely clear that we think they are wrong, wrong-minded, offensive and totally out-of-court. We attach great significance to the peace process and I just think Alan, if he hasn't anything better to say than that, should just shut up," he told BBC2's Conference Talk programme last night.
Mr Hague moved swiftly to distance himself from the remarks by Lord Tebbit, in which the former Tory party chairman suggested that the nation was being "splintered and fractured" by increasing multi-culturalism. Echoing the famous "cricket test" controversy which occurred after he claimed people were only truly integrated if they supported England at cricket, Lord Tebbit claimed multiculturalism was divisive and said Britain was becoming a "pagan society worshipping mother earth" because the Church had become so weak.
"You can't have a whole load of different cultures in one society, you have one culture for one society and if you get different societies mixed up, living close cheek-by-jowl, you will splinter our society in the way that devolution is splintering the United Kingdom," he said.
"Multiculturalism is a divisive force. One cannot uphold two sets of ethics or be loyal to two nations, any more than a man can have two masters. It perpetuates ethnic divisions because nationality is in the long term more about culture than ethnics.
"Youngsters of all races born here should be taught that British history is their history, or they will forever be foreigners holding British passports and this kingdom will become a Yugoslavia," he said, underlining similar comments which he made in a weekend television interview.
He also blamed several of his most senior colleagues for the current state of the party. "Blame Margaret Thatcher, Michael Heseltine and John Major. She left old Labour too weak to resist new Labour. Michael Heseltine's vendetta against her tore the Tories apart, leaving a haemorrhage of membership pouring from the party's unhealed wounds.
"As John Major distanced himself from Thatcher, Tony Blair picked up and wore with style the Tory clothes which had fitted Major like an Oxfam suit."
Earlier, Mr Hague had told the conference: "I want to see in our party more black people, more Asians, I want to see more young people." The principles which had brought him into the party included "patriotism without bigotry", he said.
Last night, Mr Hague's spokesman said Lord Tebbit's views did not chime with the leadership of his party. "We want a multicultural party. You can read that as a slap-down if you will," he said.Reuse content