Iain Duncan Smith has ordered three Tory MPs to sever their links with the far-right Monday Club. He declared yesterday that he would not allow "extremists" to stay in his party.
The new Tory leader hopes that tough action against members with "intolerant" views on race will help convince the public that his party has changed after two crushing general election defeats. He is ready to risk a backlash from Tory traditionalists by also taking a strong line against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or religion.
Mr Duncan Smith's purge of the Monday Club, which supports the voluntary repatriation of immigrants, drew parallels with Labour's expulsion of members of the Trotskyite Militant Tendency in the 1980s. The three right-wing MPs, Andrew Rosindell (Romford), Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke), and Angela Watkinson (Upminster), all backed Mr Duncan Smith in the Tory leadership election, as did the Monday Club itself.
After Mr Duncan Smith called for an investigation into the links between the club and the party, David Maclean, the Tory Chief Whip, ordered them to resign from the club and they did so a week ago.
David Davis, the Tory chairman, will meet the Monday Club's officers shortly to discuss the future relationship between it and the party. One option is for membership of the club to be deemed "incompatible" with Tory membership.
It is believed that Mr Duncan Smith intended to launch his crackdown on the club after this week's conference but brought forward the move when BBC TV's On The Record programme got wind of it.
Arriving in Blackpool yesterday, Mr Duncan Smith said: "I have made it clear that this party will have no truck with any extreme attitudes or views. Any member of a party that is outside the Conservative Party or associated with it will not be a member of the Conservative Party." His tough stance contrasted with William Hague's decision not to expel John Townend, the former Tory MP who said Labour was turning Britain into a "mongrel race".
Gary Streeter, a Tory vice chairman, called for the party to make a break with Thatcherism in a symbolic move similar to Tony Blair's scrapping of the Clause 4 commitment to public ownership.Reuse content