Hague's victory for euro sceptics

WILLIAM HAGUE won a victory on Europe last night after Conservatives chose a series of MEP candidates who had promised to support his sceptical line on the single currency.

Although many of the chosen candidates may be "Euro-positive" at heart, most have now pledged not to campaign against their party in next year's elections to the European Parliament.

The news may infuriate some pro-European Conservatives such as Kenneth Clarke and Michael Heseltine, and could act as a spur for a break-away group to set up its own slate of candidates.

In the Southern region, the six candidates chosen for the party's slate under a new proportional system all made public declarations of support for their party leader.

Four of those six - James Provan, Tom Spencer, Roy Perry and James Elles - were already MEPs, but one member, John Stevens, failed to make the list after refusing to promise support in the campaign for Mr Hague's anti-Euro line. Two other candidates, the former Brentford and Isleworth MP Nirj Deva and a Daily Telegraph journalist, Daniel Hannam, are both considered Euro-sceptic.

Mr Stevens said afterwards: "This is an extremely good result for William Hague. He now has a team of MEP candidates who, while representing a broad spectrum of views on Europe, generally are all united against the single currency."

However, some pro-European Conservatives were also positive. Ian Taylor, the MP for Esher and Walton who resigned from his party's front bench over the issue, said the party candidates' lists showed "a very positive European flavour."

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