Jeremy Paxman reveals he has heard senior Tories calling activists 'swivel-eyed loons'

Newsnight presenter's disclosure further undermines attempts by the party to shut down affair amid continuing rows over Europe and gay marriage

Whitehall Editor

Another journalist has revealed that he has heard senior Tories describe activists as "swivel-eyed loons".

The Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman, said that he had been present when high-ranking Tories had used the term to describe local party members.

His disclosure further undermines attempts by the party to shut down the affair which has caused deep divisions in the Conservative Party amid continuing rows over Europe and gay marriage.

Speaking on Newsnight last night Mr Paxman asked a young Tory activist Binita Mehta: "What about this swivel-eyed loon[s]…that such language can be used by people near the centre of the party about people who get the party elected?"

He then added: "I have heard senior members of your party talking about local activists in these terms."

At the weekend two newspapers revealed that a member of David Cameron inner circle had described local party associations as "swivel-eyed loons". The party co-chair Lord Feldman has admitted to speaking to the journalists but denied he used the phrase in conversation.

The Financial Times has also reported that Mr Cameron "tells colleagues that anyone who wants to talk to him about the EU is 'swivel-eyed'.'"

In an attempt to limit the damage caused by the affair he attempted to assure party members in an email that neither he nor his inner circle would ever "sneer" at them.

Mr Cameron did not refer explicitly to the "mad, swivel-eyed loons" remark, but insisted that he admired and respected his party's activists.

"I am proud to lead this party. I am proud of what you do," he said.

"I would never have around me those who sneered or thought otherwise. We are a team, from the parish council to the local association to Parliament, and I never forget it."

Mr Cameron also tacitly addressed claims that he surrounds himself with a privileged elite by recalling his own work for the party in his 20s, describing himself as just "one of the volunteers" on a local council campaign.

He wrote: "Since then I have met thousands and thousands of party members. We've pounded pavements together, canvassed together and sat in makeshift campaign headquarters together, from village halls to front rooms."

Mr Cameron also acknowledged his differences with party colleagues, but promised to respect their views. He said: "Does that mean we will agree on everything? Of course not. The Conservative Party has always been a broad church and we must remain so today."

At the same time a Tory MP today suggested his own anti-European Union colleagues were also “swivel-eyed”.

Gary Streeter, who represents South West Devon, wrote an article for his local newspaper warning that people would not vote for a divided party.

“In the past few days my party has given a pretty fair impression of being not just divided, but obsessed with a single issue and heading for internal chaos,” he wrote.

He then added: “Over the amendment to the Queen's Speech on Wednesday (on a European in/out referendum) I recognised once more the familiar glint in the swivelled-eyes of the purists who are prepared to sacrifice all to get Britain out of Europe.

“No matter that we wreck our chances of winning next time so long as we get the right policy: a policy that presumably we can contemplate lamely in opposition as we watch a Labour-led government bend the knee to Brussels.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
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: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project