The Vote of Confidence: MPs survive rebellion that was a 'matter of principle': The Constituencies

IF GRASS-ROOTS Tories were angered by Thursday's rebellion, few were prepared to show it in the constituencies yesterday, even before the rebels redeemed themselves by supporting the Government's vote of confidence.

By Thursday's vote, local Conservatives had become very familiar with the rebels' views on Maastricht and, whether supporting or opposing them, they regarded them as matters of principle to be respected.

Richard Hughes, chairman of Sir Trevor Skeet's Bedfordshire North constituency, said: 'It is clear that the majority of our members believe that the Prime Minister should be supported but there was a sizeable minority who were unhappy about further European integration. Trevor made his views very well known and debated them openly many times.

'I think most people would have preferred him to have voted with the Government (on Thursday) but we have to accept that on certain major issues an MP has to vote with his conscience. That is what Trevor did, and I am sure members would prefer a representative who has the courage of his convictions than a yes man. There is certainly no question of any action being taken against him.'

Tony Smithson, treasurer of Southend East, Sir Teddy Taylor's constituency, said the vote did not affect his MP's standing with Tory voters, but it left the Government in confusion.

'There have been only two telephone calls about the vote (on Thursday) - one for and one against,' he said. 'This doesn't put Teddy at loggerheads with the membership because he fought the election on an anti-European footing. He always made it clear that he was going to oppose Maastricht and he was adopted on that view.'

Roseanne Williams, chairman of Nicholas Budgen's Wolverhampton South West constituency, said she believed her MP had 'gone too far' in voting against the Government on Thursday night.

'There have been quite a few irate telephone calls to the constituency office,' she said. 'I was extremely disappointed that Nick went so far. He has said the whole rebellion was like a game of poker, but the cards have not fallen right for him.'

Jacqueline Williams, chairman of Christopher Gill's Ludlow constituency, said her MP might have upset some Tories by voting against the Government, but his position was in no way threatened.

'He never once misled us about his feelings towards Maastricht and they were the views on which we adopted him for the general election,' she said.