The Sterling Crisis: Angry Tory MPs demand Lamont's resignation: Political reaction

Conservative MPs were stunned and angered by the speed and severity of the financial crisis, bringing the first public demands for Norman Lamont's resignation and even prompting speculation that John Major might face a challenge for the party leadership.

Andrew Hunter, Conservative MP for Basingstoke, and John Carlisle, MP for Luton North, both called for Mr Lamont to go.

Mr Carlisle said: 'If this was UK plc the finance director would have to resign. We need a fresh start, a new policy, out of the ERM, out of Maastricht'. The impact of the interest rate rise, if sustained, would be 'terrible'.

The Chancellor, he said, had 'derided his critics and yet this has happened. We have to see some confidence returning to the markets and this Chancellor does not inspire it'.

Even the Prime Minister might face a challenge this autumn, Mr Carlisle said, though he opposed the idea. 'Unless the Prime Minster changes direction or inspires some sort of confidence in his colleagues, it might be considered. I think it is very unlikely and personally that it is undesirable. But some might feel that if the damage is going to be done, it is better to do it sooner rather than later'.

Mr Hunter said that while the decision was for him, the Chancellor should go. 'He has presided over a failed policy. He lacks all credibility.' The interest rate rise was 'a tragedy of the gravest order'.

Tory alarm reached well into the ranks of the executive of the key 1922 backbench committee. Sir Michael Neubert, MP for Romford, said he was simply appalled. 'We are back to where we were two years ago. Nemesis has finally overtaken us. The Government has to re-think its whole economic strategy. The present policy is simply unsustainable.'

Sir Rhodes Boyson, MP for Brent North, said: 'I am concerned for the future of the country.'

Staunch defence of the Government and Chancellor came, however, from Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith, vice-chair of the 1922 committee, who turned his anger on the Bundesbank. 'One is upset that this should be necessary,' he said. But it was 'sheer lunacy that we should have all this speculation about the currency'.

The comments that had been attributed to the President of the Bundesbank were 'wholly irresponsible', he said. The pound was 'not a weak currency against all the others in Europe, with the exception of the Deutschmark where it is only marginally out of line. There is no real reason for devaluation'.

Sir Geoffrey said he 'admired very much the strength of determination of the Government and the Chancellor. The Chancellor is doing the right thing, even if it is uncomfortable'. The Government should not let itself be 'rolled over' by the markets when there was no justification.

Some other members of the 1922 executive said privately, however, that Mr Lamont had to go. One declared: 'The fiscal policy is in ruins; it's in bloody tatters. It's time to change the Chancellor. If Norman went, it would take some of the heat off the Prime Minister.'

John Watts, the Tory chairman of the Treasury select committee, said: 'We will only have got it wrong if the end result was a devaluation. But if we can win through this particular turbulence and remove the suspicion from the market that a British government will always devalue . . . then we will have won a major prize'.

But Conservative MPs opposed to Maastricht said the crisis only proved their case for Britain to reject the treaty and leave the ERM. Even some not noted as opponents said hostility to the treaty would rise.

John Townend, chairman of the Tory backbench finance committee, said: 'If these rates continue for a number of weeks we will be heading for the biggest slump since the 1930s. The ERM and monetary union have failed'.

Nicholas Winterton, MP for Macclesfield, said: 'This is a disembowelling of the little life that is left in the British economy.'

Lord Ridley, one of Margaret Thatcher's most loyal supporters, said he felt 'extremely sorry for the people of Britain'. It would be disaster for business and extremely serious for mortgage-payers. Yet it was all unnecessary.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick