New Tory leader faces mutiny

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Indy Politics

The new leader of the Conservative party this week will face a mutiny from some of William Hague's high command amid growing signs that the turmoil in the Tory party will not be settled by the leadership contest.

Two Portillo supporters, Francis Maude, the former shadow Foreign Secretary, and Archie Norman, the Asda boss and former environment spokesman, both privately told colleagues this week they were unlikely to serve in the next Shadow Cabinet under either of the contenders.

David Willetts, who will be promoted if Mr Duncan Smith wins, privately met Mr Maude and Mr Norman last week to head off the threat of a rival new think-tank after fears it would be a focus for dissent by liberal centre-right Conservatives.

Both Mr Maude and Mr Norman gave assurances that they would be constructive in their criticism of Conservative policy. However, some of Mr Portillo's supporters are still hoping that he will make a comeback, despite saying he is leaving frontline politics.

As both leadership contenders made their final appeal to young Conservatives in Manchester, some Tory MPs were openly speculating about an attempt to stage a coup before the election, whoever wins on Wednesday.

Mr Hague's former press secretary, Amanda Platell – a critic of Mr Portillo – today warns his successor that her years at Mr Hague's side taught her "loyalty is at an all-time low in the Conservative party". Writing in The Independent on Sunday, she says: "The backbiting must stop."

She urges the new leader to bring back heavy hitters to the Shadow Cabinet including Ann Widdecombe, Michael Howard and John Redwood, with promotion for Tory women Eleanor Laing, Julie Kirkbride and Cheryl Gillan.

Ms Platell also calls for Mr Hague to be brought back to frontline politics before the next election by the new leader, saying, "The Conservative party cannot afford to waste his talents."

David Davis is tipped to become the next Conservative party chairman if Mr Duncan Smith wins. Friends predicted he would take charge of the Tory research department to direct the attack on Labour.

Mr Duncan Smith this weekend sought to widen his appeal as a One Nation Tory but some of his advisers share Ms Platell's fears that Portillo supporters will keep up a campaign from the sidelines.

Leading Tory MEPs fear his leadership will lead to renewed efforts to disengage from Europe.

Both camps deny there will be high-profile defections in the event of the other one winning. A Clarke campaigner said: "Certainly Ken is not going to leave."

The Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, told the IoS he will use his party's annual conference as a recruitment platform for disenchanted Conservative MPs, MEPs and councillors. "We will offer them a warm welcome," he said.

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