Maastricht rebel deposed from 1922 executive

MODERATE TORY MPs succeeded in deposing only one of their selected targets in last night's key elections for the executive of the backbench 1922 Committee.

Sir George Gardiner, chairman of the right-wing 92 Group, was replaced by David Evans, who is at least as right-wing, but who remained loyal to John Major during the Maastricht crisis.

A campaign to rout those who persistently delayed the progress of the Maastricht Bill largely failed, however, while the result leaves the overall political make-up of the executive unchanged. As Andrew Mackay, the Government whip who announced the result, put it: 'The Tory party likes the status quo, obviously.'

Four Maastricht rebels who successfully repelled the attempted coup were Sir Rhodes Boyson (Brent North), Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton), John Townend (Bridlington) and James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth).

They and Sir George had been targeted by the Mainstream group, a coalition of left-wing MPs, pro-Europeans and a few right-wingers, who sought to turn the contests into a test of loyalty to the Prime Minister.

Mr Evans, the MP for Welwyn & Hatfield, said that the Maastricht revolt was the reason for Sir George's defeat. 'The party has given a message that we want loyalty,' he said. 'We have got to pull together. We have got to be totally loyal to (the Prime Minister) at the same time.'

Mr Pawsey said the election showed that there had been 'an adjustment, not a purge'.

Sir Rhodes said that the Mainstream group had indulged in a witch-hunt, but the message for the Prime Minister was that 'the basis of the party is right of centre and the country is right of centre. They are suspicious of Europe.'

While the blunt-speaking Mr Evans was scrupulously loyal to Mr Major during the Maastricht revolts, he is, none the less, a populist right- winger and 92 Group member. His replacement of Sir George means that the 12-strong executive remains predominantly right-wing.

Mr Evans insisted last night that he would tell the Prime Minister when the Government was not 'doing or saying the right thing'.

While there was intense satisfaction in Government circles about the removal of Sir George, in terms of future problems that might face Mr Major, he is not guaranteed an easy ride.

Several executive members who agreed to stand for re-election under the Mainstream 'slate' of candidates, are also members of the 92 Group. Alongside their pledged loyalty to the Prime Minister they will expect strict adherence to right-wing principles, such as low taxation and public spending cuts.

A challenge by the right- winger Bob Dunn, MP for Dartford, for the joint-chairmanship also failed.

The committee's officers for the coming year are: chairman: Sir Marcus Fox; vice-chairmen: Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith and Dame Jill Knight; treasurer: Sir Giles Shaw; secretaries: Sir John Hannam and Sir Peter Hordern.

Executive: Sir Rhodes Boyson, Robert Dunn, Sir Anthony Durant, David Evans, Sir Anthony Grant, Sir Terence Higgins, Sir Ivan Lawrence, Sir Michael Neubert, James Pawsey, Marion Roe, Sir Donald Thompson and John Townend.

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