Major urged to sack four ministers

JOHN MAJOR came under increasing pressure from the Conservative backbenches yesterday to sack at least four members of his Cabinet, while the Treasury Chief Secretary, Michael Portillo, publicly speculated about succeeding him in Downing Street.

After a week in which the Government was forced into two more humiliating U-turns - on commemoration of D- Day and backdating of higher council taxes - a growing number of senior Tory MPs are demanding a radical overhaul of the Major administration.

Speculation about an imminent Cabinet reshuffle is fuelled today by Sir Norman Fowler, who makes plain in a television interview that he is to step down from the chairmanship of the Tory Party soon: 'I was brought in to do a particular job, and that job has been done. There will come a time when I would wish to move on.'

The political future of Peter Brooke, the Heritage Secretary, is regarded as limited after the D-Day fiasco, and David Evans, MP for Welwyn Hatfield and a member of the executive of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, voiced disillusion with the present Cabinet.

He advised the Prime Minister: 'Get rid of Brooke, Gummer, Patten and Waldegrave. Put the other 300 names in a hat and pull four out. You couldn't do worse.' Mr Evans coupled this advice to sack John Gummer, the Environment Secretary; John Patten, the Education Secretary, and William Waldegrave, Minister for Public Services, with a pledge of support for Michael Portillo should the Prime Minister be ousted after the Euro-elections in June. 'If he does get dumped, I will go with Portillo,' he said.

Mr Portillo, busily building a leadership base on the party's right with a one-man campaign to revive traditional values, further set out his stall with his speech in Freuchie, Fife, praising the 'quiet majority that pays its taxes, meets its dues and plays its part in the community'. He described 'a world turned upside down' where 'yobbos' were sent on sailing cruises and people capable of work lived on state hand-outs.

Mr Portillo, asked later whether he was staking his claim as a future leader, said: 'I am glad if you think there is nothing wrong with that. But what I like to do in politics is to talk about the ideas as well as what we do, to try and get above the day-to-day crises and to look at where politics is going. Within our party we have some people who are absolutely excellent in present policy. I hope to make a contribution towards looking to the longer term.'

The Opposition was quick to seize on Mr Portillo's latest intervention. The shadow chancellor, Gordon Brown, described the Treasury Chief Secretary as the 'unacceptable face of neo-Thatcherism'. Mr Portillo 'should stop accusing the unemployed of being workshy, inadequate and loutish when it is this Government and its ministers that are guilty of these crimes.'

Mr Brown told a Labour Party youth meeting in London that Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, and Mr Portillo were 'no longer under Major's orders, but under starter's orders'.

'This Government and this Prime Minister are not so much accident-prone but permanently doomed to failure because they never listen to the British people.

'Out of touch, out of step, out of place . . . and for the good of the nation they must soon be out of office and out of power,' he said.

The bookmakers William Hill yesterday reduced the odds on Mr Portillo becoming the next Tory leader from 8 to 1 to 6 to 1. An NOP poll for the Independent found that only 3 per cent of the population want him to be Prime Minister.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable