Conservative MP Gary Streeter has attacked "swivel-eyed" eurosceptic Tory MPs for being willing to sacrifice the election in pursuit of their goal of leaving the European Union.
Writing in the Western Morning News on Tuesday, the Devon South West MP savaged his fellow Conservatives for voting in large numbers to condemn their government's own legislative agenda for not including an EU referendum bill.
"Over the amendment to the Queen's Speech on Wednesday I recognised once more the familiar glint in the swivelled-eyes of the purists who are prepared to sacrifice all to get Britain out of Europe," he said.
"No matter that we wreck our chances of winning next time so long as we get the right policy: a policy that presumably we can contemplate lamely in opposition as we watch a Labour-led government bend the knee to Brussels."
On Monday evening David Cameron decided to write a somewhat pleading letter to Tory activists insisting he would never "sneer" at them. The attempt at bridge-building came after reports a senior Tory and close aide dismissed the party grassroots as "mad, swivel-eyed loons" who dragged MPs to the right.
Streeter said that in the past few days the Tories had "given a pretty fair impression of being not just divided, but obsessed with a single issue and heading for the internal chaos that dogged the Major government in 1992".
"There have been times in the past two weeks when I have experienced that Groundhog Day feeling. It was like being transported back into the 1990s when Conservative MPs were running around in circles over the Maastricht Treaty, appearing on TV to denounce each other over our European policy."
Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps has also denied that "anyone senior" in the party would describe activists as "swivel-eyed" or indeed, "loons".
"It's not an attitude or a view I have ever heard expressed in No 10, in Central Office, we respect and work with people who work incredibly hard as volunteers, unpaid, for the party," he told Channel 4 News.
However the denial has been challenged by Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman, who told Tory guests on the programme last night: “I have heard senior members of your party talking about local activists in these terms.”
Speaking during the gay marriage debate yesterday, hardline eurosceptic MP Edward Leigh light heartedly-told the Commons that "if you accuse me of being swivel-eyed" he "could take you to court on disability grounds".
Labour MP George Howarth told Leigh that rather than being "swivel-eyed", he was "just myopic" in his opposition to the same-sex marriage bill.