One Nation Tories show their teeth

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Indy Politics
Tory MPs led by David Hunt, the former Cabinet minister, yesterday called on John Major to keep the Conservative Party on the centre ground of British politics and to reject the "ideological tendency" on the Tory right.

Conservative Mainstream, which is supported by a number of ministers, including Nicholas Soames, the Minister for the Armed Forces, issued an alternative manifesto to counter the demands of the Euro-sceptics for Mr Major to fight the coming election on their manifesto. It will be seen as a clear warning to the party leadership that any move to the right would threaten a backlash from the centre-left of the party.

They warned: "Our party is more likely to be successful in future if, as in most periods in the past, it remains a party of all the people and not beholden to any sectional interest or narrow ideological tendency."

The manifesto was backed by Sir Geoffrey John Smith, vice-chairman of the Macleod group, and drawn from a conference in the summer at which the speakers included John Gummer, one of the leading pro-Europeans in the Cabinet; Douglas Hurd, the former Foreign Secretary; and Ian Taylor, another strongly pro-European minister at the Department of Trade and Industry.

Other supporters include: Andrew Rowe, Peter Bottomley, Peter Butler - the parliamentary aide to Kenneth Clarke, Robin Squire, Mark Robinson, Sir Jim Lester, Nigel Forman and Quentin Davies, seen as the leading lights on the centre-left of the Tory Party.

The group was created by Mr Hunt, former Secretary of State for Wales, to bring together One Nation Tories and members of the centre-left Macleod group. They could become important dissidents, if the Tory leadership was seized by the right wing. The Chancellor was last week alleged to have warned in a private lunch that a lurch to the right, and rejection of the European single currency could lead to a split in the Tory Party.