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Former Conservative MEP, Bill Newton Dunn
"Hague stands for absolutely nothing practical at all in Europe"
 real 28k

Conservative European Chief Whip, Timothy Kirkhope
"Bill was deceitful to us"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 21 November, 2000, 18:35 GMT
Tory MEP defects to Lib Dems
William Hague
William Hague: Accused of a "hard swing to the right"
A former leader of the Conservative Party in Europe has defected to the Liberal Democrats accusing William Hague of being anti-European.

Bill Newton Dunn, MEP for the East Midlands, said he left the Conservatives because of the party's "hard swing to the right".

A former chairman of the Conservative group in the European Parliament and an MEP for 21 years, Mr Newton Dunn said his views were now more in tune with the Liberal Democrats.

He is the seventh MEP to leave the Tories for the Liberal Democrats in the past four years.

Bill Newton Dunn
Mr Newton Dunn said the Tories had swung to the right
Mr Newton Dunn said Conservative leader William Hague's policies on Europe had "overturned 40 years of constructive engagement" by the Tories.

"Conservative influence on the continent is now probably at the lowest level since the Napoleonic wars," he said.

"My own beliefs have not changed greatly. I still stand for One Nation. But my beliefs are now more in tune with the programme the Liberal Democrats have set out."

Mr Newton Dunn said he was hopeful other Tory MEPs would follow him into the Liberal Democrats.

"It is a big step and you have to face the criticism which is going to come, not everybody may want to do that but some might and anybody who shows a sign will get a lot of support from me."

He rejected suggestions from the Conservative Party that he should resign his seat in the European Parliament.

'False pretences'

Shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude accused Mr Newton Dunn of campaigning "under false pretences" during the European election.


My beliefs are now more in tune with the programme the Liberal Democrats have set out

Bill Newton Dunn
"At the last election, Conservatives stood for a platform of being 'in Europe, not run by Europe'.

"Our positive message was supported overwhelmingly by the British people.

"Sad to say, it's now clear that Bill campaigned under false pretences."

He added: "Bill is clearly a euro-federalist. He does not believe in Britain. Under these circumstances, it is quite right that he should join the Liberal Democrats, who want to be in Europe, and run by Europe."

'A real home'

The defection was welcomed by Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy.

"I am delighted that someone of Bill Newton Dunn's experience and stature has joined the Liberal Democrats.

"As William Hague takes his party further and further to the right, on and off every passing bandwagon, the Liberal Democrats continue to offer a real home to people with moderate one nation values."

Labour Euro-leader Simon Murphy criticised Mr Newton Dunn's move.

"Bill Newton Dunn is abandoning the party that wants nothing European at any price, for the party that wants everything European whatever the price.

"He is going from being a fringe Tory to joining a fringe party."

Mr Newton Dunn has been an MEP since 1979. He has represented the East Midlands since 1999 and had previously represented Lincolnshire from 1979 to 1994.

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See also:

06 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Kennedy slams anti-euro campaign
03 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Tories defend focus on Europe
02 Aug 00 | UK Politics
Tory adviser defects to Labour
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