BRITISH Prime Minister David Cameron has launched a new campaign aimed at ending intense party in-fighting.
He has sent a "personal message" to thousands of Conservative volunteers insisting that despite recent differences over Europe and gay marriage, the leadership and the party enjoy "a deep and lasting friendship".
Mr Cameron's email was his first comment since newspapers revealed that a member of his inner circle had described Conservative association members as "mad, swivel-eyed loons".
He did not explicitly refer to the row over the "loons" comment, but insisted that he admired and respected his party's activists.
"I am proud to lead this party. I am proud of what you do," Mr Cameron said. "I would never have around me those who sneered or thought otherwise. We are a team, from the parish council to the local association to Parliament, and I never forget it."
Mr Cameron made his peace offer after being accused of "railroading through" controversial gay marriage laws after striking a last-minute deal with Labour to rescue the legislation from a Commons defeat.
His plan to allow same-sex couples to marry has been strongly resisted by Conservative members and MPs. Around 150 Tory MPs including cabinet ministers are expected to vote against the plan today.
Last week, more than half of all Conservative backbenchers voted to criticise Mr Cameron's coalition for failing to offer government legislation for a European Union referendum.
The rows over Europe, gay marriage, and the "loons" comments have led some Conservatives to claim there is now a fundamental difference between Mr Cameron and the party's grassroots.
Mr Cameron's gay marriage plans have split his party so deeply that he will today have to rely on Labour and Liberal Democrat votes to see the bill through its last Commons stage.
Although Mr Cameron has allowed his MPs a free vote on the issue, he has personally championed gay marriage and the size of the revolt represents the latest Tory challenge to his leadership.
A poll last night put the Tories on 24pc, only two points ahead of Ukip on 22pc. Labour scored 35pc and the Lib Dems 11pc. (© Daily Telegraph, London)