Tory prime minister David Cameron is “running scared” of Tory MPs as rows over Europe, equal marriage and “Loongate” engulf the party.
Former foreign secretary Lord Howe added that Cameron seemed to be “losing control of his party”.
Tory rebels want the prime minister to back an early referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU).
A key ally of Cameron was reported last week to have called the grassroots Tory activists lobbying the rebels “swivel-eyed loons”.
The alleged comments were made after 116 Tory MPs backed an amendment criticising the queen’s speech for failing to promise a referendum on EU membership.
Lord Feldman, Tory co-chairman and a close friend of Cameron, denies making the comment.
But Cameron himself has used the term “swivel-eyed” to describe “anyone who wants to talk to him about the EU”, according to the Financial Times in March.
Cameron has described Feldman as “one of my oldest and best friends” and has backed him over the row.
The Board, a group representing Tory activists, was deciding whether to take action over the allegation as Socialist Worker went to press.
The row has exposed the scale of opposition to Cameron in the party.
Ben Harris-Quinney, director of the Conservative Grassroots organisation, said, “It doesn’t matter who made these comments. The problem is that it comes as no surprise and is representative of a wider malaise in the party.”
Some Tories are angry that Cameron appointed old college mates to senior positions. They see him as losing touch with members.
Former MP David Mellor said the row was “a disaster waiting to happen”. He added, “You cannot elevate tennis playing friends to be chairman of the Conservative Party without their being a political price to pay.” No one has openly put forward an alternative leader to challenge Cameron. But it’s clear that those Tories who oppose him will seize on every future crisis to criticise his leadership.
Paul Goodman, editor of the Conservative Home website, said that Tories backed Cameron for leader in 2005 because he “seemed more of a winner”.
“Almost ten years later that view has worn very thin,” he said. “Cameron didn’t gain a majority at the last election. In short, he isn’t a winner.”
The latest row may well die down. But it could do lasting damage to Cameron. And the wider discontent within the party will continue.
Nigel Farage, leader of the far right Ukip, has seized on the row engulfing Cameron.
He placed a full page advert in the Daily Telegraph on Monday of this week appealing to disgruntled Tories to join Ukip.
Farage is taking full advantage of the crisis. But we can’t allow the racist right to capitalise on the Tories’ woes.
Our side should be taking them on while they’re in trouble. The Tories aren’t as strong as they sometimes seem. A serious fightback could bring them down.