Letter: Major's constitutional position

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The Independent Online
Sir: Euro-sceptic MPs and most media commentators have wilfully or mistakenly misinterpreted our Prime Minister's warning, endorsed by the Foreign Secretary and the Conservative Party chairman, that a defeat of the Government's decision to ratify our international treaty, to which it has already adhered, could lead to a general election and a consequential Tory defeat, as a blackmailing, bullying tactic.

This is not so. There is a long- established tradition that when a minister's major policy aim has been repudiated by his colleagues, with or without opposition support, he should resign. It is unthinkable that any of his present colleagues would then seek to take his place, and abandon their own share of collective responsibility. It is no less unthinkable that any successor from the Euro- sceptic minority could gain the confidence of the majority of the party. Constitutionally, the leader of the second largest party in the House - the Socialists - would then have to be invited to form a government; which would then quickly lose a vote of confidence at Westminster. A general election would inevitably follow.

Yours etc,

FREDERIC BENNETT

London, WC2

26 October

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