Tory conference faces Euro rifts

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Plans by Brian Mawhinney, the Conservative chairman, for a show of unity at the party conference with John Redwood and Baroness Thatcher could be disrupted by rifts over Europe. This week Mr Redwood is to meet Dr Mawhinney over plans for the show of unity.

Dr Mawhinney agreed details with Lady Thatcher last week for her appearance at Bournemouth and Mr Redwood is making a keynote speech at a fringe meeting of the Conservative 2000 group.

But unity will be further strained over Europe. The cross-party European Movement today gives details of a poll showing most voters in all three main parties wanted Britain to keep open the option of a single currency. Support for government policy was strongest among Labour voters, with 69 per cent supporting it, compared to 55 per cent of Tories.

The Conservative Group for Europe, led by Edwina Currie, will also step up its pro-European campaigning by reissuing calls for a united Europe by Sir Winston Churchill, to mark the 50th anniversary of his speech in Zurich.

Mr Redwood increased pressure on Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to rule out entry into a single European currency before the election.

He said Britain's refusal to rejoin a European exchange-rate mechanism meant the country was moving away from a single currency. He did not think that the Chancellor would resign over the issue.

Mr Redwood believes the tide has turned towards the Euro-sceptics.

He said Mr Clarke should introduce legislation to make the Bank of England independent in the run-up to the single currency, and persuade his colleagues to rejoin the ERM, but that had not happened.