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banner Saturday, 30 September, 2000, 14:21 GMT 15:21 UK
Major speaks out on euro
Major and Hague
Major: Rumours of attack on Hague 'utter drivel'
Former Prime Minister John Major has strongly defended his 'wait and see' attitude to the single currency, ahead of his speech at the forthcoming Tory party conference in Bournemouth.

He has also vowed not to use his first conference speech in four years to attack his successor as Conservative leader, William Hague.


One doesn't ever say never

John Major
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Major said Tory Eurosceptics should not be allowed to exploit the Danish 'no' vote to the euro.

Earlier this week the Danes voted by 53% to 47% not to adopt the single currency.

The official Tory policy rules out a referendum on the euro for at least the next Parliament, but a significant section of the party want joining ruled out forever.

Mr Major set his face firmly against the party's Eurosceptic wing, saying: "One has to look both in the medium and the long-term and I am seeking to do that.

'Complete and utter drivel'

"The position of the party is that we are not going to go in the euro in the short term, but over the longer term one cannot be certain.

"One doesn't ever say never because I don't know and Michael [Portillo] doesn't know, and nobody else knows what the circumstances might be in five years, six years, seven years or 10 years' time.

"But I do not myself believe - and I say this from a position of someone who is keen to see Europe succeed - that it would be right for us to go into the euro in the near future."

Margaret Thatcher and John Major
Major has promised no repeat of his relationship with Margaret Thatcher
Mr Major's administration was torn by dissent over closer European integration.

He famously called some of his own cabinet ministers "bastards", over attempts to undermine his course on Europe.

At one stage several Eurosceptic MPs refused to take the whip in Parliament, and bickering over Europe extended into the Tories' ill-fated General Election campaign.

Mr Major has not spoken at conference since the General Election disaster of 1997.

He emphasised that his speech will not be used as an attempt to rebuke William Hague's perceived lurch to the right, dismissing such rumours as "complete and utter drivel".

'Cherry picked'

After he retired in 1997, Mr Major said he would never undermine a serving Tory leader in the way that he said Margaret Thatcher had undermined his premiership.

In the BBC series The Major Years, Mr Major described her behaviour as "intolerable".

"I hope none of my successors are treated that way by their predecessors or indeed by anybody else."

On the Today programme, he stressed: "No-one has asked me what I am going to talk about but I assure you it is not a rebuke to William Hague. It will be very strongly in support of William Hague.

William Hague
William Hague has vowed to keep the pound for at least another Parliament
"It will be very strongly urging people to support him between now and the General Election and beyond. It is emphatically not an attack on William Hague at all.

"I suggest people wait for what I say on Monday evening and not anticipate what someone has told them I might say, because nobody knows at this stage except me."

However, in an apparent reference to asylum policy, Mr Major said people were getting the wrong impression of the Conservative Party because certain policies were 'cherry picked' by their opponents.

"There has been a deliberate attempt - and a very successful attempt in many ways - by the Labour Party, to categorise the Tory Party in a position I don't believe it holds with.

"I think people should look at the whole range of Conservative policies."

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