Embattled MPs face deselection: Tory 'Back to Basics' morality net widens

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The Independent Online
TWO of the three MPs at the centre of Tory 'Back to Basics' scandals were facing the prospect of deselection last night as the party's high moral tone was adopted with gusto at grassroots level.

Tim Yeo's position was further weakened after revelations that he had fathered a second child out of wedlock, while Steven Norris, the transport minister with five mistresses, was brought back into the fray several months after appearing to have escaped the hounds.

Only Alan Duncan, the MP for Rutland and Melton, who stands to gain from a council house purchase, was given the full support of his local party.

Mr Yeo's decision to tell the Mail on Sunday that he had a daughter 22 years ago who was put up for adoption did not endear him to his Suffolk South constituency. Tony Bailey-Smith, leader of the Tory group on Babergh council, told the BBC it was time he thought of the party instead of himself.

He said Mr Yeo should stand down as MP even if that resulted in a damaging by-election which could be won by the Liberal Democrats. 'I do not necessarily think we should go along with the (present) situation because we are frightened of a by-election,' he said. 'No one wants a by-election, but if we are going to have it, we might just as well get it out of the way now.'

In Epping, Essex, Steven Norris's position looked similarly shaky. Revelations that he had a number of mistresses surfaced before the Tory Party conference last year but were overshadowed by damaging leaks from Margaret Thatcher's memoirs.

Yesterday, however, local members said Mr Norris's lack of family values was still being frowned upon. Ron Braybrook, a senior Tory on Epping Forest council, said Mr Norris's reselection was 'not automatic'.

'At the moment, it is a case of seeing how he carries on, whether he adopts more suitable behaviour,' he said. 'We are all very disappointed with Steven Norris's behaviour. This business of liaisons with other people and getting separated, that is not what you think you should expect from your MP, especially these days when the Government is supposed to be getting back to basics.

'That is a fairly widespread view, particularly among the older members of the local party, a lot of whom are appalled and do not think he should be reselected.'

In Rutland and Melton, local Tories said they thought Alan Duncan had done nothing wrong in lending an elderly neighbour the money to buy his council house, which was later sold to the MP at a pounds 50,000 saving on its market price.

Colonel Jim Weir, constituency chairman, said: 'We were disappointed he resigned as a parliamentary private secretary. He has been a very hard-working constituency MP and he has our full support.'