The two main reasons we lost the 1997 election so badly were sleaze and disunity where we had the likes of Bill Cash MP, Teddy Taylor MP and later Iain Duncan-Smith MP, who joined them in 1992. They, with other rebels, attacked and harried the Conservative government and the Prime Minister John Major. They were a party within a party. Labour were united, we were divided and as such un-electable. Major's running sore in the first half of 1993 was the passage of the Maastricht Bill. He found the whole saga exceptionally frustrating and often felt angry by the way the Eurosceptics held up government business and perpetuated the impression to voters of a Party at war with itself. Iain Duncan-Smith was the rebel who helped divide the Party. The Conservatives were returned in 1992 with a majority of 21 against all the odds. However, the election can also be seen as detrimental to John Major through bringing in fifty-four fresh members, many of the more articulate of whom, like Iain Duncan-Smith, Alan Duncan and John Whittingdale, were Thatcherite and Eurosceptic. The impact of the exchange of Major's Friends for Thatcher's Children' was not, however, to be fully appreciated for some months.
In 1992 the veteran anti-Europeans were joined by many new Conservative MPs. Chief among the rebels in the '92 intake were two able members, Iain Duncan-Smith and Bernard Jenkins. Iain was Norman Tebbit's successor as MP for Chingford. He was sharp-toothed and bright-eyed, with a keen prosecuting intellect and a strong right-wing ideology. He was also fiercely ambitious, and a busy operator behind the scenes. With Bernard he was active in putting pressure on new Members to vote against the government. On the 4th of November, 1992 Iain Duncan-Smith was one of the twenty-six Tory MPs who voted against the government on the Maastricht Treaty. In March '93 with 25 other Maastricht rebels, he helped defeat the Government by 22 votes. In May '93 he was one of the 41 Maastricht rebels who voted against the third Reading of the Bill and was rated as one of the most active Maastricht rebels; other than massaging the ego of the rebels, all this was futile as at the end of the day the Bill was passed with all party support. All the rebels had succeeded in doing was giving ammunition to Labour and the Liberals.
As Kenneth Clarke has said The country regards us as obsessed with the euro and this perception is damaging. The decision will be taken by the people. Our job is to get back to treating Europe as part of normal debate in politics, not an issue which overshadows and obscures everything else we might do or say. If Iain Duncan-Smith were elected leader how could he expect the Party to be loyal to him when he was so disloyal to Major and the Conservative Party. The idea of the likes of Bill Cash and Teddy Taylor sitting on the Conservative front bench terrifies us.
Please note that we speak for ourselves as individuals and not on behalf of the South Shields Conservative Association.
PS: We are frequent visitors to Palma.
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