BY PIERS MCGRANDLE
COULD DAVID ALTON become a Tory? This was the question on everybody's lips this week following an ambiguous statement in which the devoutly Catholic Liberal MP announced his retirement from Westminster.
In an address to party workers, the 44-year-old MP for Mossley Hill said that although he was a Liberal Democrat "for the forseeable future", he felt more in common with Tory wets like Chris Patten than the Blairite "social agenda" promulgated by Paddy Ashdown.
"There are already two or three groupings within the Conservative Party, and I feel I have more in common with David Hunt or Chris Patten than most members of the Labour Party".
"I would find that an exhilirating and refreshing option if something emerged".
During his 16-year parliamentary career, David Alton was famous for his fearless defence of the Christian posi tion, and in 1990 he co-founded the 10,000-strong Movement for Christian Democracy (MCD).
In 1992, he threatened to resign from the Liberal Democrat party after it made abortion party policy (a move later rescinded).Any future plans? "In politics you rule nothing in, and nothing out", he told the Herald this week. Saying that he would continue to promote MCD, he added "I shall continue to work for a politics based on social concern combined with personal responsibility".