Massow says Tories offered him peerage to stay in party

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Indy Politics

Ivan Massow, the millionaire businessman who left the Conservatives for Labour this week, suggested yesterday that the Tories offered him a peerage by in a a last-minute attempt to stop him defecting.

Ivan Massow, the millionaire businessman who left the Conservatives for Labour this week, suggested yesterday that the Tories offered him a peerage by in a a last-minute attempt to stop him defecting.

In his first interview since his surprise decision was revealed by The Independent on Wednesday, Mr Massow told BBC Radio 4's PM programme that he rejected the offer because the Tories were trying to use him to convince voters they were a compassionate party. He accused them of speaking to the public "in rabid tones."

Although he refused to say whether William Hague had personally offered to make him a Tory peer, Mr Massow said: "If you are token acceptable face of some kind of compassionate conservatism that doesn't actually exist within the party machinery, if you are being used as a tool to encourage people to vote for you because they believe maybe you are becoming more open-minded and more tolerant, then it's not something I think I should have taken."

The Conservatives have denied Mr Massow was offered a peerage and his claims will fuel his war of words with the party of which he had been a member since he was 14.

Mr Massow, 32, admitted he may well have ended his political career by switching sides, saying few people changed parties successfully. "It is a kind of suicide jump very often. So I had to be aware of that before I did it," he said. He hoped that his decision would "allow people to focus on the fact that we have to put angry politics behind us and we can only tolerate a party who will bring compassion, tolerance and inclusion to the table if they want to govern Britain."

Mr Massow said his decision took three years to come to fruition. He said the recent tone of the Tory party, and its comments on asylum and Section 28 - the law that prohibits local authorities, including schools, from promoting homosexuality as a normal way of life - were "out of touch with contemporary, diverse Britain."

He admitted he may have looked like a "self-publicist", as the Tory vice-chairman Steven Norris called him, but pointed out that until yesterday he had written only one article about his defection - in The Independent - and not given any interviews. He believed his move attracted attention because he was "a catalyst for what lots of people have been thinking about the Conservative Party".

Mr Massow, who is gay, said he had tried to show the party why it had lost the 1997 general election: "They were out of touch. They didn't have a heat, they didn't have any compassion... Maybe I was trying to bully the Conservative Party into changing.

"After a while you give up trying to flog a dead horse... I was just sick of defending them on issues such as asylum and Section 28. I was sick of listening to the constant conversation they were having with the general public in rabid tones. I could see no reason to lend my name to them any more."

Asked if he could have joined any other party, he replied: "Some of the criticism levelled at me has been that you join a party because it is a tribe like a football club and you are supposed to stay with it through thick and thin. I just don't agree with that."

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