Hague Slaps Down Rebel Heavyweights; TOE THE LINE OR YOU'RE OUT, HESELTINE AND CLARKE TOLD

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID HUGHES

AN exasperated William Hague yesterday delivered a stinging ultimatum to Michael Heseltine and Kenneth Clarke over Europe.

He warned the two Tory heavyweights they would be 'out on their ear' if they do not toe the party line and campaign for Conservative candidates in June's European elections.

Mr Hague threw down the gauntlet amid rumours that he may be the target of a leadership coup triggered by two deselected MEPs.

The Tory leader is seething over the way Mr Heseltine and Mr Clarke threw their weight behind Tony Blair over the single currency last week, and he was thunderstruck to find out that his two former Cabinet colleagues had held secret talks with Mr Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown to discuss the move towards monetary union.

In an interview with Radio 4's The World This Weekend, Mr Hague spelled it out that his patience with the two pro-Euro warhorses had finally snapped.

'Let me make this very clear,' he said. 'I expect all Conservative MPs without exception to campaign for the official Conservative Party candidates in the forthcoming European elections and any who do not will be out on their ear.

So let's be very clear about that.' Mr Hague has been boosted by last week's Mori opinion poll which showed the party hitting 30 per cent support for the first time since the General Election.

The poll has helped quell the whispering campaign against his leadership on the Tory benches in the Commons.

There has been speculation that Mr Clarke has been carefully posi- tioning himself for a leadership bid in case Mr Hague should stumble between now and the next election. …