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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Major Loses Parliament Lead After Resignation

LONDON -- Prime Minister John Major's Conservative government lost its one-vote majority in parliament on Friday when a legislator quit the party caucus.


The resignation of Sir John Gorst, over a dispute about a hospital in his north London district of Hendon, left Major heading a minority government.


It was the latest blow for Major. His party, hit by fresh turmoil over a single European currency and failure to turn economic recovery into votes, plunged to a new low in popularity earlier Friday.


Gorst said he will no longer obey instructions by the Conservative parliament whips to attend the House of Commons or to vote for government measures.


"Unfortunately, it is a business of applying pressure on the government to fulfill the obligations and promises which they made,'' Gorst told a news conference at the House of Commons.


He warned that another Conservative legislator from Hendon may quit unless the district's Edgware General Hospital gets an emergency unit.


Earlier, a Gallup poll showed that with less than six months before national elections, the Conservatives are 37 points behind the left-of-center Labor Party.


The slide, a 10-point drop since Gallup's November poll, came despite falling unemployment, economic growth while inflation remains low, and a modest cut in income tax in the annual budget two weeks ago.


Major's problems look set to increase as so-called "Euroskeptic'' legislators pile on pressure for him to rule out abandoning the British pound for the euro, a single European currency, for at least five years.


"I believe that the democratic will of the party is now quite clear -- to rule out a single currency,'' Conservative legislator Edward Leigh said in a radio interview Friday.


He spoke after a tense meeting of rank-and-file Conservative legislators Thursday night, marked by clashes between right-wingers opposed to closer European ties and the generally more liberal pro-Europeans.


Major has adopted a non-committal policy, saying Britain will decide after the EU settles final terms for the euro. He has promised a referendum before joining.


Since Labor last month edged closer to Conservative caution by also promising a referendum, the anti-Europeans have stepped up pressure on Major to adopt a tougher line.


Central to the dispute is the fate of Major's pro-European treasury chief, Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke, a popular political figure nationally and widely regarded as an astute economic manager.


Major has been pushed into having a two-day parliamentary debate on Europe next week before a meeting with the 15 other EU leaders in Dublin, Ireland.


He has also, after persistent reports that he wants to rule out joining the euro, declared twice in the past week that his policy is still wait-and-see.


Major said Friday he shared concerns "about some aspects of what is happening in the European Union.''


For his part, Labor leader Tony Blair said: "[The Conservatives] are not governing Britain any more. We really need a decision now.''