The Conservatives in Brighton: Speech fails to dissolve all opposition to treaty

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The Independent Online
THE Prime Minister's speech delighted the rank and file, and satisfied some of the doubters, but it failed to persuade the hard core of rebel Tory MPs to drop their opposition to the Bill to ratify the Maastricht treaty.

However, a senior member of the 1922 Committee said it would be enough to minimise the revolt in the Commons: 'It will be enough to persuade the waverers in the party to back the Bill.'

Nirj Deva, one of the Tory backbenchers who signed the Commons motion calling for a fresh start on Maastricht, welcomed Mr Major's assurances. 'My concerns will remain undiluted until I see what happens at next week's EC summit, but my feeling is that John Major is not going to be a pushover . . .'

One right-winger in the Cabinet said: 'It was very well-judged. He gave a clear lead on the Bill, but tried to move the party on to the domestic issues, like education.'

Eric Pickles, MP for Brentwood and Ongar, said: 'There is a general feeling of regret of some excesses on Tuesday (when hecklers disrupted the European debate). They'll back him on Maastricht, they will back him on the economy and public-sector cuts.'

Mr Major said enough to satisfy some of the younger supporters in the hall. Jason Sugarman, from Lewes in East Sussex, said it showed he was 'completely in charge'. Nicholas Fothergill from Llanelli said the speech echoed the CPC lecture by Norman Lamont, the Chancellor, who, in spite of a bad press for his own speech, toured the bar being congratulated by the representatives.

Baroness Thatcher has been diminished by her mid-conference attack on Mr Major's leadership. 'She has taken her place in the Pantheon of past leaders. It's sorted out once and for all where we are going and who's in charge,' one representative said.

But Bill Cash, one of the leaders of the revolt against ratification of the treaty, said: 'Of course the fight goes on.'