Downing Street insider Lord Feldman 'taking legal advice', as he denies calling anti-Europe anti-gay marriage Tory activists 'mad swivel-eyed loons'
A senior figure in the Conservative Party reportedly said grassroots Tories are forcing MPs to oppose gay marriage and Europe
Number 10 has denied that "anyone in Downing Street" made comments describing Tory party activists as "mad swivel-eyed loons".
The comments, reported in a number of newspapers this morning, had allegedly come from a close aide to David Cameron.
And the party's co-chairman Lord Feldman has rebuffed internet rumours that it was him that made the comments, reported by The Times and The Daily Telegraph, from a figure with "strong social connections" to the Prime Minister.
A No 10 spokesman said: "It is categorically untrue that anyone in Downing Street made the comments about the Conservative Party Associations and activists reported in The Times and The Telegraph.
"Lord Feldman has also issued a statement... categorically denying it was him. The Prime Minister supports Lord Feldman's position."
Lord Feldman said in a statement: "There is speculation on the internet and on Twitter that the senior Conservative Party figure claimed to have made derogatory comments by The Times and The Telegraph is me.
"This is completely untrue. I would like to make it quite clear that I did not, nor have ever described our associations in this way or in any similar manner. I am taking legal advice."
The comment was made by a senior Tory who said MPs are having to put up a show of opposition to gay marriage and Europe simply to keep local Conservative associations sweet.
He suggested that were it not for the demands of party activists the MPs would be far less likely to take up extreme positions that have undermined the Prime Minister in recent weeks.
Referring to Wednesday’s vote when 116 Tory MPs voted against the Queen’s Speech, he said: It’s fine. There’s really no problem. The MPs just have to do it because the associations tell them to, and the associations are all mad swivel-eyed loons.”
The vote came just a few days after the Prime Minister was driven to publish a draft referendum Bill on EU membership and shortly before next week’s vote on gay marriage when 150 Tory MPs are likely to rebel.
The comments, made at a private dinner, will further underline the belief among some Conservatives that the Prime Minister and his closest aides fail to understand the depth of feeling against much of the Coalition’s agenda.
Grassroots members said after learning of the comments by one of Mr Cameron’s must trusted advisers that it illustrated the “utter disregard” with which they are treated by Downing Street.
“This sums up why David Cameron has so many problems with his party: because he and his entourage don’t like it very much,” Paul Goodman, editor of the Conservative Home website, was reported as saying. “It smacks of the way a trendy metropolitan couple might treat their embarrassing elderly relatives turning up at a party for their West Kensington friends.
“What this suggests is that Downing Street hasn’t grasped the distrust and dislike that runs through a big swath of the parliamentary party.”
MP Douglas Carswell, a critic of Mr Cameron over gay marriage and Europe, was quoted as saying: “Instead of treating the membership as the enemy, the modernisers should respect them as shareholders. If you treat the membership as the problem, you will eventually end up with a membership of one.”
But one Tory MP privately admitted to the ‘Daily Telegraph’ that there was truth in what the aide said: “I don’t have a problem with gay marriage because the state has no business in our private lives. But I’ll vote against it because if I don’t I’ll lose half my association.”
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