Tory 'wets' set for rebellion on economy
By Our Political Correspondent
Two dozen Conservative "wets" met in private session at the Commons last night to discuss their options for to-night's vote on the Chancellor's latest economic package.
The meeting, called for 10.15 pm in an out-of-the-way basement interview room, broke up after 30 minutes with those present maintaining strict secrecy over their deliberations.
But it was significant that two of those present were Sir lan Gilmour (Chesham and Amersham) and Mr Norman St John Stevas (Chelmsford), who have emerged as critics of the Government's economic policies since their dismissal from Mrs Thatcher's Cabinet.
Another of those present, Mr Christopher Patten (Bath), says in an article in The Times, today, however, that he will not abstain in tonight's vote.
He argues: "There are signs of change in the parliamentary party, the first stirrings which suggest that the Conservative Party has not yet entirely lost its commonsense or its admirable instinct for self- preservation."
Mr Patten says that next year's Budget must contain a package for the revival of industry; that is his last ditch before open revolt.
But it is understood that there are others at last night's meeting, perhaps as many as a dozen, who will signal their disaffection with the Chancellor's "deflationary" package with deliberate abstention.
Among those attending the meeting were Mr Stephen Dorrell (Loughborough), Mr Mark Wolfson (Sevenoaks), Mr Charles Morrison (Devizes), Mir David Madel (Bedfordshire South), Mr Keith Speed (Ashford), Mr David Crouch (Canterbury), Mr Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire South-West), Mr John Hunt (Bromley Ravensbourne), Mr Cyril Townsend (Bexley Bexleyheath), Mr John Wheeler (Paddington), Mr Robert McCrindle (Brentwood and Ongar), Mr Robert Hicks (Bodmin), Mr Richard Needham (Chippenham). Dr Brian Mawhinney (Peterborough). Mr Hugh Dykes (Harrow East) and Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint West).
The former Prime Minister, Mr Edward Heath, is expected to join Sir Ian Gilmour in criticizing the line of Government policy during the debate.