Letter: Tim Yeo's downfall: exercise of confused standards by the Government

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The Independent Online
Sir: There is a general feeling that Tim Yeo's forced resignation reaffirms the power of constituency opinion on MPs, however well placed they may be in the government hierarchy. If this is true, we have just witnessed a fascinating exercise of grass-root power from which we should all take comfort.

We were forewarned days after the story of his affair broke out to wait for the 'verdict' of Mr Yeo's constituency association. He, in turn, had announced earlier that he had the 'full backing of the Prime Minister and his colleagues'. However, his constituency association issued a statement expressing 'deep concern' and 'urged' him to 'reflect' on the criticisms levelled against him. This, we are led to believe, was a coded way of asking him to resign as a minister.

The truth is, direct local influence on ministers where it occurs, is a function of the Government's own needs for face-saving. If Mr Yeo had been sacked earlier, it would have meant giving in to 'media pressure', and if he had been backed 'through thick and thin' a la David Mellor, the hypocrisy would have been too glaring for comfort. So, the best way out for the Government was to find someone else to do what its own self-righteousness would not allow it to do, and who better to do it than the South Suffolk Constituency Association?

Yours faithfully,

TAYO OKE

London, SE13

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