Cameron's 'Purple Plotters' Still Plan to Merge with Lib Dems Claims Tory Rebel

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon Walters and Brendan Carlin

DAVID CAMERON faced a growing revolt last night over accusations of secret moves to merge the Conservatives with the Liberal Democrats.

Rebel Conservative MP Mark Pritchard said Tories are furious at what he called 'a Cabinet plot' to forge closer links with the Lib Dems.

In a direct challenge to the Prime Minister's authority, he said: 'It should be remembered that the future of our country and party is more important than any one person who happens to reside in No 10.'

Mr Pritchard, secretary of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbench MPs, last night vowed that he would not be silenced - even if Tory chiefs threatened to throw him out of the party.

He spoke out after former Tory Chancellor Nigel Lawson criticised Mr Cameron for being 'very foolish' and dismissed the work of Steve Hilton, the Prime Minister's image guru and director of strategy at No 10.

Mr Hilton was behind Mr Cameron's cherished Big Society project and 'Happiness Index', which aims to measure the national mood.

Lord Lawson, Chancellor in Margaret Thatcher's Government during the Eighties, said: 'It is not my style of politics and it was not Margaret Thatcher's style of politics either.'

Mr Pritchard's latest explosive comments come after he claimed in The Mail on Sunday earlier this month that 'purple plotters' - a group of Conservative and Lib Dem politicians - were secretly trying to merge the two parties with the support of Mr Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Mr Pritchard obeyed an order to 'stop rocking the boat' in return for a promise that Mr Cameron and his allies would keep the Tories as a completely independent party.

But he claims that Cabinet Ministers have since covertly carried on encouraging Press speculation that some kind of election pact or merger is on the cards.

Just two days ago, there were two separate reports that Tory Cabinet Ministers were privately discussing plans for them to work with the Lib Dems to encourage anti-Labour tactical voting at the next General Election.

Mr Pritchard said: 'I was told that this nonsense about jointhought ing with the Lib Dems would stop, but it hasn't.

'I am not prepared to have unnamed Cabinet Ministers putting about stories of pacts and mergers while party traditionalists like me are gagged. …