I cannot hide the fact that I've dithered somewhat over this one but reading the thread below my earlier post has convinced me that Eric Pickles should enforce party discipline and expel Stuart Wheeler from the Conservative Party. I have three things to say:
Party members cannot be allowed to openly support other parties: One of the strengths of the Conservative Party under David Cameron has been its unity. Although members' privileges are being eroded by the leadership there has to be responsibilities attached to the fact that members, for example, have a right to elect the party leader and select candidates. If the party leadership turns a blind eye to members openly advocating support for other parties then unity and discipline will be difficult to maintain in more difficult political times. It is also important that Stuart Wheeler isn't seen to get special treatment because of his status as a Conservative Party (ex-)donor.
We should thank Stuart Wheeler for his support for the Conservative Party: As I commented last night, Stuart Wheeler helped the party when we most needed help. He did so from high principle. He has never sought personal advantage from his giving to the Party. In fact, he has specifically ruled out joining the House of Lords. His Euroscepticism and campaigning on human rights are admirable. The Conservative Party is already experimenting with non-membership affiliations - such as internet 'friends'. I hope he does vote for the Conservative Party at the next election. He
should be expelled with regret and there must always be a way back into
the party for people who are natural allies.
Europe is an issue that cannot be ignored: I am delighted that David Cameron is set to deliver on his pledge to take our MEPs out of the EPP. For the first time the European Parliament will have a serious opposition to the EU's constant drift to ever closer union. Europe as an abstract issue may be low on voters' list of priorities but European law and directives affect every aspect of British life including immigration and our ability to fight crime. Some in the Conservative leadership want the issue of Europe to go away. A head-in-the-sands stance will only encourage more members to follow the example of Stuart Wheeler.