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Howe: Anti-Europeanism has 'infected the soul' of party

Lord Howe has launched a scathing attack on the Conservative party leadership. In an opinion piece in the Observer, he writes:

Sadly, by making it clear in January that he opposes the current terms of UK membership of the EU, the prime minister has opened a Pandora's box politically and seems to be losing control of his party in the process.

The ratchet-effect of Euroscepticism has now gone so far that the Conservative leadership is in effect running scared of its own backbenchers, let alone Ukip, having allowed deep anti-Europeanism to infect the very soul of the party.

The risk now is that, if it loses the next general election – a far from negligible possibility – the Conservative party will move to a position of simply opposing Britain's continued membership, with or without a referendum.

– lord howe, former chancellor

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Lord Howe: 'Cameron is losing control of his party'

Former foreign secretary Lord Howe has claimed David Cameron is losing control of his party as the Conservatives' "long, nervous breakdown" over Europe continues.

Lord Howe, whose differences with Baroness Thatcher over Europe led to his resignation and triggered her downfall, said Mr Cameron had "opened a Pandora's box politically" through his plan to renegotiate the UK's relationship with the European Union.

Lord Howe waits in the Prince's Chamber to enter The House of Lords. Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/PA Archive/Press Association Images

In a strongly-worded attack he said the Tory leadership was "running scared" of its backbenchers and had allowed Euroscepticism to "infect the very soul of the party".

Writing in The Observer, Lord Howe said the row over the lack of legislation paving the way for the Prime Minister's referendum by 2017, which led to a total of 116 Tories opposing the Government's legislative programme, marked a "new, almost farcical, low" for the party.

Lord Howe's falling out with Thatcher 'a long time ago'

Lord Howe, Baroness Thatcher's former foreign secretary, said his ex-leader had had the "ability to handle a whole range of foreign policies".

It was Lord Howe's resignation speech, in which he was very critical of her leadership, that led to Michael Heseltine's leadership challenge and Mrs Thatcher's ultimate fall in 1990.

Speaking on Sky News today, Lord Howe said his speech had not been an attack on Mrs Thatcher.

Asked about his personal relationship with her, he replied: "It was all a long time ago."