IAIN WATSON: The Tories thought they'd
laid to rest the ghosts of division on Europe, which so bedeviled them
back in nineteen-ninety-seven. But it now looks like they've been resurrected,
and not long before the next general election. So, don't watch alone -
it's TORY EURO NIGHTMARE....2. Now, sequels are never quite as scary
as the original - but even former front bench spokesmen - appointed by
William Hague - are - politically speaking at least, at each other's throats
PATRICK NICHOLLS MP: As far as the single currency
is concerned I shall say what I said last time which is that I personally
wouldn't vote to go into a single currency in any circumstances whatsoever.
DAVID CURRY MP: As far as the single currency
is concerned I shall say that the United Kingdom should retain the option
of joining - if we believe it's in our national interest and provided people
vote for it in a referendum.
TIM COLLINS MP: I would say to any candidate
who chooses to change the wording of Conservative party policies in any
respect it would be preferable if you didn't do it.
WATSON: This Northamptonshire constituency
is number five on the Tory target list of winnable marginals. We came to
Kettering to see the prospective parliamentary candidate. It looks like
somebody has been putting on the frighteners; this highly marginal constituency
isn't the sort of place where you'd expect the Tories to be running scared
on Europe; in fact it's one issue where they seem to be clearly in touch
with the vast majority of voters. Recent polls suggest that six out of
ten people don't want to scrap the pound, so where is the local Conservative
candidate to argue the case? Well there's not much sign of him round here.
Actually he had agreed to do an interview, then he contacted Conservative
Central Office in London and they said no.
And this place is number six on the Tory target list, Wellingborough,
in the heart of middle England. Here in the Wellingborough constituency,
just like Kettering, you've got more chance of catching a glimpse of a
ghost than filming the Conservative candidate - but its not the paranormal
that's responsible for his disappearance. He had agreed to an interview,
he then contacted Conservative Central Office and they said no.
This seat is number
eleven on the Tory target list - Romford in Essex, where you would expect
a full-blooded campaign on Europe; and to be fair, the candidate had agreed
to be interviewed, then he checked with Conservative Central Office, and
you've guessed it, they said no. Although Central Office think it's a vote
winner, it seems few prospective parliamentary candidates are allowed
to advocate the policy of keeping the pound.
So just what lies behind this mysterious disappearance of Conservative
candidates in some of the country's key seats? Could it have anything
to do with this memo - sent from Conservative Central Office to all Conservative
candidates. It reads: Please contact John French in the Press Department
if you're contacted by BBC On the Record, and when you do the advice is
clear - decline all offers of an interview. Central Office were probably
nervous that these prospective parliamentary candidates would go beyond
the policy of ruling out the Euro only for the lifetime of the next Parliament.
In that sense, they were right to intervene from on high - because this
is what they would have said if they'd been allowed to appear. In Kettering,
when we spoke to the candidate, Phillip Holobone, he replied 'I cannot
see myself ever voting to abolish the pound. Never. I'm not a possibly
person.' Then in Wellingborough the standard-bearer Peter Bone is on record
as saying 'we want nothing to do with the single currency.' And Romford's
Tory hopeful, Andrew Rossindell puts it like this: 'I'd be about as likely
to vote to abolish the pound as I would to abolish the monarchy. We rule
it out, simple as that.'
You would advise those candidates not
to talk to the media?
COLLINS: Candidates should always
talk to the media, it's very important that candidates should raise their
profile and raise the profile of the Conservative party's policies throughout
the land. What I would also say is what candidates say to us all the time,
which is we don't want our efforts in a particular constituency to be undermined
by the fact that some other candidate somewhere else has been, shall we
say, a little off line. And I would also say to those candidates who are
thinking of perhaps departing from official Conservative party language,
it is not, shall we say, a career enhancing move.
WATSON: What's stopping officials
here at Conservative Central Office from putting candidates in front of
the camera is a fear of history appearing to repeat itself. At the nineteen-ninety-seven
General Election around two-hundred candidates issued personal manifestos,
opposing the then official policy of 'wait and see' on joining a single
currency. Now although the policy has shifted quite a bit since then, to
rule out joining the Euro for the lifetime of the next parliament, there
are still candidates in key seats who want to go further. In the forty
most marginal seats - those that require a modest swing - a total of
eleven prospective candidates are either on record as saying they'll NEVER
go into a single currency, or they have told us privately, they'll say
so during the election campaign. Thirteen say they'll stick to the official
line of ruling out the Euro for five years, or the lifetime of the next
parliament - while a further sixteen wouldn't say, or couldn't be contacted.
The battle for territory
can often be bloody. At the last election, these people, the United Kingdom
Independence Party, or UKIP, along with the Referendum Party - drew around
fifty per cent of their vote from former Conservatives. In highly marginal
seats like Romford, they could deny a Tory victory. Long-standing Conservative
Eurosceptics are stressing there's no need to vote UKIP; as their personal
position in opposing the Euro is the same. And, on willingness to withdraw
from the European union, the difference with this party is simply on tactics.
STEPHEN WARD: If you're in Europe, then
you're are committed politically, there's no two ways about it, you cannot
be in something, you cannot have a foot in two camps - you get divided
loyalties. You have your loyalties to your country, first and foremost,
and your people.
PATRICK NICHOLLS: I suppose the UKIP position might
be to walk out now and then try to negotiate a harmonious relationship
after. Mine is more pragmatic. I would try to establish what I want -
the supremacy of British law over European and then if not then we would
have to leave. Now I have many friends who are UKIP supporters, many UKIP
supporters are entirely comfortable with that.
BILL CASH: They are addressing
questions which are of concern to the British people and the questions
that I'm posing, which is about the question of who governs Britain, is
in fact quite similar to the questions that the UKIP candidates are putting
up and I believe that we should rule out the single currency in principle.
WATSON: It's not just MPs and
candidates in key marginals who are redefining Tory policy. Some prospective
parliamentary candidates in Conservative-held seats might be causing a
bit of a scare too. Richard Bacon in Norfolk South told a public website:
"I would have no serious objection if the European Parliament were abolished",
adding "I would never vote for the abolition of the pound - ever". Meanwhile,
in Tory-held Wycombe, Paul Goodman says "I'm against scrapping the pound
in any circumstances".
COLLINS: What we found during the
1997 General Election is that we didn't just have a small minority of candidates
who decided on the odd bit to embellish to Conservative policy we had the
majority of candidates flatly contradicting Conservative policy. That is
clearly not going to happen.
WATSON: So ruling out a single
currency forever is a mere embellishment?
COLLINS: The point that people
need to know is that if they vote Labour or Liberal Democrat they are voting
to scrap the pound, if they vote Conservative they are voting to keep the
BOB WORCESTER: What they're doing is sending
a wider signal to the electorate, to the broad electorate that they're
split on this issue and when I talk to Shadow Cabinet ministers and I
say "you know what you're doing is opening a wound". They say, "Oh no,
no. We're entirely united on this" and I say, "Well what about the big
beasts? What about Ken Clarke, what about Michael Heseltine?" - "Oh they're
has-beens". Well they may be to the Shadow Cabinet but they're certainly
not to the British public.
WATSON: They may be few in number
but the so-called Europhiles have enough weight to cause damage. The former
Chancellor Ken Clarke has been circumspect, but the ex-deputy Prime Minister
Michael Heseltine let it be known, he thought twice about voting Tory.
And now David Curry and other pro-Europeans are expected to go their own
way, in their election literature.
DAVID CURRY: What I'm going to say is
that I want Britain to be at the heart of Europe. And as far as the single
currency's concerned, I believe that Britain should retain the option of
entering, without any predetermined time scale, provided it's in our interests
and of course provided people vote for it at the referendum.
WATSON: Sources close to Conservative
Central Office say the real reason William Hague doesn't rule out the single
currency in principle has much to do with his predecessor as party leader.
They say that he doesn't want to risk a schism with John Major, the man
who wanted to keep his options open on the Euro. But this has cost William
Hague funding from a wealthy potential backer.
PAUL SYKES: Well I had a quick short meeting
and of course everybody knows I've campaigned against the Euro for a long,
long time and we just couldn't hit it off basically, there was a difference
of opinion. I believe Conservatism and a Conservative should never set
a date in the future to give up for giving up control of one's economy
-that wasn't compatible with me supporting the party. Now I think William
Hague would have been better keeping a very clean and clear line. As I
say the line isn't something I...I wish them well, but I couldn't support
it. I've never waffled on this issue. Whoever controls the currency, controls
WATSON: So property developer Paul
Sykes is putting his millions into a campaign for a referendum on whether
Britain should remain in the European Union, as presently constituted.
Neither the Conservative Party nor individual Euro-sceptics will share
in his largesse.
SYKES: I'm not getting involved
in candidates and political parties again. It brought me a hell of a lot
of flak and hassle. I could do without it.
COLLINS: Well I'm sure Paul Sykes
is in many respects an admirable person, but he is just one voter, and
the fact is that seventy per cent of voters agree with the policy on which
we will be fighting the next election, keeping the pound. That's good enough
WATSON: The coming election may
not reveal the full horror of the Tory divisions on Europe; the leadership
say the party is more united now than in 1997 - well, that wouldn't be
hard -but some say once the election campaign is out of the way all the
stresses and strains just beneath the surface could be tested to breaking
CURRY: I fear that afterwards
we might have a - if what we've got now is a hairline crack, I mean it
might be much more of a fissure of actually people saying, we simply want
out of Europe and that would really be very disastrous for the Conservative
CASH: I think we should
have a Referendum, in order to ask the British people, what they think
about the whole question of European government and at the same time I
believe, that to actually make it happen, we would have to go to the other
member states and say, "We have a policy of re-negotiation. These are the
amendments we want. We are not going to be governed by Europe, but we're
prepared to work within the single market, and we're prepared to cooperate.
But we're not prepared to be governed."
WORCESTER: After the next general election
which we're about to have there is going to be an almighty fight for the
heart and soul of the Conservative Party. If you push to the logical extension
that Euro-sceptics take over the heart and soul of the Conservative Party
then one of two things are bound to happen - one is they will again lose
the election after next, 2005, pretty massively, and secondly, there is
the possibility of a split in the Conservative Party.
WATSON: The Tories haven't yet
exorcised their image of being a divided party so, at the forthcoming election,
their hopes of benefiting from of an apparently popular policy on the Euro
could be dimmed and the wider arguments over Britain's future relationship
with Europe look set to rage on.