Which way should I vote next week?

Teddy Taylor feels indecisive about the Tory leadership election
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The Independent Online
In this Conservative leadership contest, for the first time in 31 years, I am a "don't know". This might be interpreted as a pathetic and cowardly attitude of an MP seeking to hide some devious, dark strategy. But I can assure readers that it is not.

I have taken the view since John Major's election that, as a straight and honourable man in the middle of the Euro-debate, he was the person most likely to provide a peace plan that might create unity. A peace plan promoted by Mr Major would not be regarded with the same suspicion as a plan presented by one of the candidates at either extreme.

The difficulty is that the election will now be regarded as a kind of referendum on the European Union. If I do not vote for John Redwood, and persuade some of my like-minded colleagues to do the same, the pro- EC brigade would have the opportunity of arguing that the anti-EC group is a tiny irrelevance. On the other hand, if I do vote for Mr Redwood and he does not succeed through to a second ballot, it could leave the way open for a Euro-enthusiast to win at the second stage.

Then there is the simple issue of loyalty. Although it was Mr Major who ejected me and others temporarily from membership of the parliamentary party, I have always regarded him as one of the straight men of politics. They are few in number.

The only issue on which I do have a solid opinion is that it was a mistake to have the election at all. No matter who succeeds, it will be after a battle in which strong words, accusations, rumours and conspiracies will feature. When everything is over, the problem will be exactly the same as before the election took place: namely, what the Government should do about the EU.

The seriousness of the situation cannot be overestimated. Despite assurances from successive prime ministers, a vast amount of power has already been surrendered to Europe, and the Europe in which we have become more involved is in a serious economic situation. The grim figure of 20 million unemployed on the Continent speaks for itself. We had assurances at the time of the Single Act that majority voting could only be used to promote free trade, but we now find it being used in almost every circumstance, with the current dispute being over the Euro-formula for the definition of chocolate. We were assured our border controls were guaranteed by the declaration attached to the Single Act, but now we find such a declaration has no legal standing in the European Court - it has as much relevance as a motion passed by the Women's Institute.

Looking ahead, we see the nightmare of monetary union. The decision as to whether we join the single currency is not the most relevant issue. Much more significant is the period prior to the single currency decision, when we seek to converge the economies of Europe and then proceed to a two-year period of fixed exchange rates. Under Maastricht, once we enter fixed exchange rates there is no way out, irrespective of how much damage is caused. How much better it would have been if, instead of calling for a leadership contest, the Government had stated clearly that there would be no further step towards fixed exchange rates or any further Euro-involvement unless the people were consulted in a referendum.

How should I vote next week? A Redwood victory could result in the Government being unable to accommodate the views of the small band of Euro-enthusiasts. A Redwood disaster could give the impression that we can simply plod ahead on the road to the disappearance of Britain and our absorption in a state called Europe, without democracy and with horrendous and inflexible socialist interventionist policies.

I find it a real agony to be indecisive. I have never faced the problem before. I can only say I will be listening, watching and deliberating to see what is the right way forward and the right way to vote. Perhaps the most worrying aspect is that I have a feeling this could be one of the most significant decisions of my rather inadequate political life.

The writer is MP for Southend.

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