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.Reuse content