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Here's your starter for ten. How many Conservative frontbenchers have resigned on principle over their party's European policy? There are, by my count, four — not counting the two MEPs, Roger Helmer and me, who returned to the backbenches when the party abandoned its commitment to a referendum on the Lisbon treaty.

Three were parliamentary private secretaries. Adam Holloway and Stewart Jackson stood down last year in order to vote for a referendum on EU membership. Tony Favell resigned as PPS to the then Chancellor, John Major, when Britain joined the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1990 (it's hard to think of a resignation more justified and less applauded).

The only minister to have forfeited the perks of office is David Heathcoat-Amory, the thin, clever, amiable Old Etonian who, until the last election, sat for Wells. 

The "Underrated" column might have been designed with Heathcoat-Amory in mind. In a world full of show-offs, he was bien dans sa peau. His resignation as Paymaster General in 1996 might easily have made him the public face of Tory Euroscepticism, but the BBC likes its Eurosceptics angry and bellicose, and he doesn't fit the image. 

Within the parliamentary party, he was the acknowledged chief of the souverainistes. The very qualities that put off television editors — his discretion, his courtesy, his wry charm —appealed to his fellow MPs. Other Eurosceptics were regularly accused (sometimes with justice) of acting from rancour, or thwarted ambition, or self-promotion. No one ever levelled such charges at the Whiggish Heathcoat-Amory.

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Is he really a euro sceptic?
June 8th, 2012
9:06 PM
"Mr Heathcoat-Amory served, under Margaret Thatcher's prime ministership, as minister responsible for protecting the environment. He later became an energy minister and then deputy chief whip. In that latter role, under John Major, despite his doubts over Europe he helped push the Maastricht Bill through the Commons, and went on become minister for Europe at the Foreign Office before quitting in the summer of 1996."

Judith Webb
May 30th, 2012
11:05 PM
And sadly, David will not stand again; he was a real loss to British politics and a very particular loss to the Wells constituency. His intelligent, considered approach to Euroscepticism was in addition to his quiet, unassuming but incredibly hard working approach to his constituency which he served so brilliantly and loyally for over 25 years. He is quite irreplaceable and the fact that we failed to return him at the last election is a matter of shame for all his supporters. I look forward to reading his book but would have been so much happier to have looked forward to more years of him as our MP.

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