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Wednesday, June 23, 1999 Published at 20:31 GMT 21:31 UK

UK Politics

Tories 'terminate' Euro rebels

The Tory party is "no longer a broad church"

Two senior members of the Conservative Party have had their membership "terminated" for backing the Pro-European Conservative Party in the Euro elections.

Former Cabinet minister Lord Gilmour and the former MP for Aldershot Sir Julian Critchley have been rebuked by party chairman Michael Ancram for calling on the electorate to vote for the breakaway group.

Unless he receives an explanation of their actions, Mr Ancram told the BBC he would presume both men had left the party, at present he said their membership had been "terminated".

[ image: Sir Julian Critchley: Expelled from the party after 31 years]
Sir Julian Critchley: Expelled from the party after 31 years
Mr Ancram wrote to Lord Gilmour saying his behaviour was "incompatible with continued membership of the Conservative Party".

Sir Julian responded by saying the move marked the end of the Conservative Party as a broad church, a charge which Mr Ancram denied.

Sir Julian told the BBC: "No Tory leader has ever been as unpopular as William Hague." The former MP who has been a party member for 31 years, added that Mr Hague's chances of becoming prime minister were extremely remote.

Julian Critchley: "No Tory leader has ever been as unpopular as William Hague"
"He is claiming a result from the European elections that is completely unjustified and he's, by this measures of expelling distinguished and not so distinguished Conservatives has, broken this view that the Conservative Party is a broad church."

He added: "Michael Ancram is a good, decent, moderate, chap forced to write rude letters to Tories like Ian Gilmour much more distinguished than himself." And predicted "little" William Hague would soon "go down the tubes".

Lord Gilmour responded to the move saying Mr Hague bore the hallmark of weak and unpopular leaders "eager to put their small feet down, usually in the wrong place on unimportant matters".

He said the Tory party had become "that rare and dismal thing: a doctrinaire sect without charismatic leaders", claiming that the parliamentary party was now more extreme than its supporters in the country.

[ image: Lord Gilmour: Hague bears the hallmarks of a weak leader]
Lord Gilmour: Hague bears the hallmarks of a weak leader
Lord Gilmour also denounced Mr Hague's Euro-policies as "ridiculous" and said that the Conservatives appeared more keen to fight "Europe" than to fight Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

He said: "The policy of the party leadership on the euro makes little sense.

"To have doubts about the single currency is fully defensible. But to place a time prohibition on joining it, not during the next Parliament, and then turn the party into a lifeboat for the pound - sending out SOPs, Save Our Pound, which if the rhetoric meant anything, should rule out joining the single currency for ever - is ridiculous."

Michael Ancram: Members should not encourage people to vote against the party
Labour responded to the expulsions saying: "By expelling moderate one-nation Tories like Lord Gilmour and Julian Critchley, William Hague is showing that he leads an intolerant party lurching to the right," a spokesman said.

While Minister for Europe Joyce Quin wondered how pro-European Tories like the former Cabinet ministers Kenneth Clarke and Michael Heseltine would respond to the move.

Tory support stagnant

An opinion poll released later suggested the Tories are no more popular now than they were before they won the European elections.

According to a MORI poll for the Times newspaper Tory support is 28% - the same it was in late May.

Labour is still riding high on 51%, a drop of just 1%, and the Liberal Democrats are at 13% - also down 1%.

The poll was conducted among 2,028 adults across Britain between Friday and Monday.

But while Mr Hague is likely to be disappointed by the figures, he may take heart from the apparent boost to his personal rating, particularly among Tory voters.

Among the public as a whole, 23% were satisfied with the way that he has been doing his job, with 50% dissatisfied - an improvement from 20% and 55% respectively.

Among Tory supporters, 42% were satisfied with Mr Hague's performance and 44% dissatisfied with his performance, compared with 29% and 57% respectively at the end of May.

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