Two days before the European Parliamentary Election my constituent and former Conservative MP for Aldershot, Julian Critchley, tells the listeners to the ‘Today’ programme that he will vote ‘pro-Europe Conservative’. In an uncertain world one can always rely upon the pro-EU biased BBC to give prominence on its programmes to the likes of EU fanatics Critchley, fellow Old Salopian Michael Heseltine and Ken Clarke - as if they are representative of opinion within the Conservative Party. In this way, according to their own selective interpretation of their Charter, the BBC discharge their responsibility to be fair and impartial!
Later in the day, at a meeting between the Officers of the ’92 Committee and the Chief Whip, I venture to say that as Dr Adrian Rodgers, Conservative candidate in Exeter at the last General Election, was chucked out of the Party for alleged unacceptable pronouncements I presume that Critchley will be too. I go on to repeat my plea that in the forthcoming ‘re-shuffle’ the Party must rid itself of the last remnants of the failed previous administration. He is definitely not best pleased when I follow this by saying that there must be no back-sliding, irrespective of the outcome of Thursday’s EP Election. He says that ‘we have a policy’ and that ‘we shall stick to that policy’. On a less confrontational note he is interested to be shown broadcast schedules indicating that the Conservative Party Political Broadcast will be going out only in England whereas tomorrow’s PPB on behalf of the Labour Party will go out in all parts of the UK except Northern Ireland.
On the eve of poll, when asked on the ‘Today’ programme whether Critchley will be thrown out of the Party for having championed another Party, Francis Maude can’t or won’t answer the question. When I tackle the Chairman of the ’22 Committee about this issue Archie says that Maude should have known that the rules say that anyone who votes against the Party is automatically disqualified. He goes on to suggest that the Chairman of the local Constituency Conservative Association (CCA) should deal with this problem. When I say that Maude’s procrastination on the ‘Today’ programme will cost us votes and that I have already provided the Ludlow CCA Chairman with proof positive that Critchley should have been chucked out of the Party a long time ago - but that he remains, making a laughing-stock of us all - Archie says that he will get the Party Chairman to have a word with LCCA Chairman, Justin Caldwell. I am not holding my breath as to the outcome because the man in question is an unmitigated Europhile and the rules seem to be interpreted differently for people of that ilk!
On 11th June, the day after the Election, I learn that the turn-out in my Ludlow constituency has been 30% but to comply with EU requirements it will be Sunday before the votes can actually be counted. In the event the local count reveals an amazing 42.9% for the Conservatives, 17.7% for Labour and 13.6% for the rabidly europhile Liberal Democrats. The unanswered question as far as I am concerned is whether, because of my well known hostility to European political union, I am in effect acting as some sort of decoy duck for the Conservative Party. Because I stand as a Conservative and genuinely am a conservative the electorate might be being fooled into believing that my views are consistent with Party policy. Clearly they are not, but that doesn’t deter the Party, either at this election or other elections, from asking me to endorse their candidates – presumably because the Party recognises that my beliefs are more in line with voters thinking than the official Party policy itself! At this particular election I have even been ‘slipped’ from voting one Thursday evening so as to allow me to get home in time to glad-hand Conservative candidate, Philip Bushill-Matthews, around the West Midlands Agriculture Show at Shrewsbury the following day.
an extract from CRACKING THE WHIP the fast-paced political memoir by Christopher Gill, former MP for Ludlow and Maastricht rebel.