The quiet man turns up the volume

Iain Duncan Smith warns that he will resign if forced to vote against his eurosceptic views again.

In this week's NS politics column, Conservative MP Jesse Norman insists that Tory MPs remain "remarkably united, not divided, over the EU issue". But everything we're hearing suggests that the reverse is true. Iain Duncan Smith is reported to have had "an extraordinary stand-up row" with chief whip Patrick McLoughlin, warning him that he will resign if he is ever forced to vote against his eurosceptic principles again. "If you ever put me in this position again, that's it," he said.

The truth is that the Tories are as divided over Europe as ever, it's just the nature of the division that has changed. The divide used to be between the europhiles (Michael Heseltine, Ken Clarke, Chris Patten, Ian Gilmour, Geoffrey Howe et al) and the eurosceptics (everybody else) but it's now between the eurosceptics and the eurofanatics.

There is no easy way to heal this division. Duncan Smith was reportedly "extremely unimpressed" with Cameron's handling of the issue but it's hard to see how a one-line whip or a free vote would have helped matters. Indeed, without a three-line whip, the rebellion would likely have been even larger. As Lord Ashcroft noted yesterday:

Others have blamed "party management", as though imposing only a one-line whip and allowing many more Tory MPs to cast an apparently cost-free vote for the referendum motion would not have created even bigger problems (and led to just as many complaints about "party management", no doubt from the same people).

ConservativeHome's Tim Montgomerie has suggested that a referendum on EU membership is the only way of "bringing closure" to the decades-long split in the party. But would the eurosceptics really go quietly if the vote went against them? After all, despite a 67 per cent vote in favour of EEC membership in the 1975 referendum, Labour still called for withdrawal in its 1983 manifesto.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.