Rubbing salt in Tory wounds

PAINFUL reminders of the event which above all others sent the Tory Party into its seemingly inexorable slide into electoral exile are set to be played out in the autumn when the Maastrict rebels celebrate the 10th anniversary of their uprising against John Major and the European Union.

PAINFUL reminders of the event which above all others sent the Tory Party into its seemingly inexorable slide into electoral exile are set to be played out in the autumn when the Maastrict rebels celebrate the 10th anniversary of their uprising against John Major and the European Union.

The commemoration will peak on November 25 when the Freedom Association hosts a lunch on the Wellington - the headquarters of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners - moored at Temple Stairs on the Victoria Embankment on the Thames.

The Maastrict Eight MPs who had the whip withdrawn from them for consistently voting against the Treaty were Sir Richard Body, Christopher Gill, Teresa Gorman, Tony Marlow, Richard Shepherd, Sir Teddy Taylor, John Wilkinson and the late Nick Budgen. Unrepentant to the last, the seven survivors will be guests at the lunch.

Many other Tories also displayed their disloyalty to the Major government by either abstaining or voting against on a number of occasions, including current MPs Bernard Jenkin (Essex North), John Whittingdale (Maldon & Chelmsford East) and Sir Michael Lord (Suffolk Central & Ipswich North).


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The Freedom Association is one of the most powerful right wing lobby groups in British politics, supporting a free society encouraging personal and family responsibility, the rule of law, national parliamentary democracy and a free market economy.

It will continue to press the Tory Party into changing its policy on Europe, the Michael Howard view best summed up as "we love to be on the margins while the other 24 nations shape the future."

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With the UK Independence Party determined to upset the Tory applecart at next year's General and county council elections, there are a number of sitting Tory MPs and candidates in seats which ought to be winnable who will not be happy at the Freedom Association's determination to honour the Maastrict rebels and reopen festering wounds.

Maastrict caused a fissure in the Tory Party from which it has never recovered, despite three changes of leader. Coupled with Black Wednesday - when the UK was ignominiously forced to withdraw from the Exchange Rate Mechanism - negative equity, sexual impropriety and financial sleaze, the Conservatives were humiliated on May 1 1997.

And although Tony Blair has problems which many believe should not see him deserve re-election, the voters still wants nothing to do with the Tories. It's a bleak picture, and I suspect Michael Howard and strategists at Conservative Central Office know that only too well.

Tickets for the Freedom Association's knees-up on the Thames cost £55. Further information from Tony Hilder on 01242 580444 or tony@aphilder.freeserve.co.uk. Membership of the Freedom Association costs £20 a year (£10 for students and pensioners) - details from 01746 861267 or mail@tfa.net.

Incidentally, Eurosceptic Labour voters who oppose the single currency and the European Constitution can join the Labour Euro-Safeguards Committee, which is chaired by Austin Mitchell MP. Details from membership secretary Jo Allen on 01603 720364 or joallenlesc@hotmail.com.

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