New Forest East



By Robert Shrimsley, Chief Political Correspondent

Daily Telegraph – 6 December 1996

A senior Conservative Party official spelt out his reasons for resigning yesterday over John Major's refusal to rule out British membership of a single European currency. Julian Lewis, a Deputy Director of the Party in the Research Department at Conservative Central Office, gave his notice in a letter to Michael Trend, the Tory Party's Deputy Chairman.

Mr Lewis, a candidate for the safe Tory seat of New Forest East, stated that he had made clear at the time of his selection for the constituency that he would have to quit "if I felt it necessary significantly to differ from the political line agreed by the Cabinet on a given issue".

He added:

"It is obvious that, as Central Office is the office of the leader of the Party, a member of staff disagreeing with a Government policy would be put in an anomalous position. Since this has recently arisen in one important area – the Government's position on a single European currency – it is clear that the time has come for an amicable parting of the ways."

He stressed that in spite of this he remained a "staunch supporter of the Party" and would do "everything I can to ensure the return of a Conservative Government at the next election".

Mr Trend responded that he regretted the decision and added:

"While I recognise your disagreement with the Government's position on a single currency, I do not, of course, agree with it."

Tory insiders pointed out that as a candidate Mr Lewis would have to have left within the next few months and that, as he had pledged to live in his constituency, he had largely been working from home for some time.

Since joining Central Office in 1990, Mr Lewis performed a vital role for the Tories, collating dossiers on Left-wing extremism in the Labour and the Liberal Democrat Parties. His most noted document was Who's Left?, which highlighted public utterances and embarrassing previous comments of Labour parliamentary candidates.

Last night, Mr Lewis said he had no choice but to quit because he was now "wholly opposed" to any move towards monetary union and wanted to be free to campaign against it. He had already concerned Party leaders with comments he made at the Tory conference when he attacked the lack of an open debate on Europe, saying that no anti-EMU speakers had been called.

Although a prominent Right-winger, Mr Lewis is not a long-standing Eurosceptic but he is a determined supporter of Britain's independent nuclear deterrent and believes a single currency would lead to a single European superstate which would then take over control of Britain's defence policy.