Plea for loyalty infuriates Tory right-wingers: 'Witch-hunt' before backbench elections

ANGER among right-wing Tory MPs that they are being targeted as 'disloyal' to John Major has spilled over in public in the run-up to next week's key elections for the 1922 executive and other backbench committees.

Right-wingers are infuriated that an attack on their Westminster power base is being presented as a show of loyalty to the Prime Minister by a coalition of 'wet' Lollards group MPs, right-wing deserters and pro-Europeans.

The principal target of the new, Mainstream, grouping is Sir George Gardiner, the MP for Reigate, a 1922 executive member who also chairs the right-wing 92 Group of MPs.

He was felt even by some right-wingers to have gone too far in voting against the Government in the Third Reading of the Maastricht Bill and on the vote on the social chapter.

A letter to MPs last week from the Mainstream group chairman, Sir Cranley Onslow, a senior backbencher, urged them to 'give the Government the support it needs and has the right to expect'.

Sir George insisted yesterday that trying to make loyalty an issue was 'totally bogus', hinting that the witch-hunters, some of them supporters of Kenneth Clarke, could easily turn against the Prime Minister in a leadership challenge.

'I do wonder whether some of those who are going around at the moment with loyalty pinned on their sleeve would turn out to be quite as loyal to John Major if the crunch ever came,' he said. Sir George, who organises a 'slate' of 92 Group candidates each year, has warned that the witch- hunters include a core of 'Euro-fanatics' who wanted Mr Major to change his current sceptical approach to European union.' It is not in the Prime Minister's interest to punish anybody,' he told BBC Television's On the Record.

'As far as I am aware, every one of the targeted members of the 22 support Mr Major. (It was) simply on the Maastricht issue alone we found we parted company.'

The other anti-Maastricht targets are the 1922 Committee executive members Sir Rhodes Boyson, Sir Ivan Lawrence, James Pawsey and John Townend, whose chairmanship of the Tory backbench finance committee is also under attack. Mr Townend has made a personal approach to the Prime Minister to protest at the way the campaign against them was being organised.

While Mr Major gave him an assurance that he had nothing to do with the vendetta, the Conservative high command has become concerned that backbench organisations no longer reflect 'mainstream' views. The Lollards group lacked the support to stop 92 Group candidates taking most of the key committee seats last year. This year, however, it has recruited key right-wingers, such as Ray Whitney and Sir James Spicer, to the cause of the ideological overhaul.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
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

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital