David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, reinforced his hardline image yesterday when he backed the re-introduction of the death penalty for serial murderers.
But Mr Davis insisted that his personal views were not Tory party policy as the issue would be determined by a free vote in Parliament and most MPs disagreed with him.
David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, said that Mr Davis should abandon his "eye-catching appeals" and support the Government's Criminal Justice Bill proposals to make "life mean life" for murderers.
But Mr Blunkett came under fire from the Police Federation over plans to let householders pay half of the £20,000 salary of their beat officer.
Mr Davis refused to back down, making clear that he favoured lethal injection in cases where there was DNA evidence of multiple, "evil" murders. In an interview for The Sunday Telegraph, he had said: "I would bring back capital punishment for serial murderers. It is not a crime of passion, it is clearly pre-meditated and cold-blooded."
A clear majority of voters - 62 per cent - back the death penalty for child murders and 54 per cent back it for the killing of an adult or a child, an ICM poll for the paper disclosed.
When asked about his remarks on BBC Radio 4's World this Weekend, Mr Davis insisted that he had made clear he was only stating his own opinions. "The party does not have a policy on this," he said.
Tim Yeo, the shadow Health and Education Secretary, told the Sunday with Adam Boulton programme on Sky News: "David has obviously got very strong opinions about it, but I think today he's probably in a minority in the House of Commons."
The Police Federation said it was opposed to "the creation of an ill-equipped, ill-trained second layer of law enforcement" under Mr Blunkett's plan to let the Government and community groups share the cost for patrols in their areas.