Horsham Tory MP Francis Maude has angrily denied claims he was "disloyal" to former party leader William Hague.

In a video diary screened last night, Mr Hague's former spin-doctor, Amanda Platell, said Mr Maude had tried to undermine her boss in the run-up to the election.

She claimed she had been tipped off by journalistic contacts about the antics of Mr Maude and aides of shadow chancellor Michael Portillo.

She alleged they were criticising the decision to focus the Tories' election campaign on Europe rather than public services.

Today Mr Maude - the shadow foreign secretary and Mr Portillo's leadership campaign manager - said the accusations were "absolutely, fundamentally, directly, diametrically the opposite of the truth."

It is feared they could deal a hammer blow to Mr Portillo's aspirations to lead the Conservatives.

MPs vote tomorrow on which two candidates will go forward to a ballot of the party's 325,000 members.

Mr Maude said: "It is completely untrue that I told journalists publicly or privately that I was unhappy with our strategy.

"I continued through the campaign not only to support it but to implement the strategy.

"If Amanda Platell had spent half as much time attacking the Labour Party as she has done for the last two years trashing William's senior colleagues, we would have had a rather better result."

Mr Portillo is struggling to pick up the extra six votes he needs to make it on to the final ballot paper.

He has the backing of 50 MPs but is finding it difficult to gain support from MPs who previously backed David Davis or former party chairman Michael Ancram.

Most of their votes are going to Kenneth Clarke or shadow Defence Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

Michael Portillo visited Sussex as doubts gathered about whether he would win his party's leadership.

Mr Portillo, who had been tipped to be the next Conservative leader, spent Saturday meeting party members in Hove, Balcombe and St Leonards.

During his whistle-stop tour, the shadow chancellor criticised the time spent pursuing the ill-fated Hastings bypass. He said: "I have an awful feeling of wasted time. Hastings does need a solution but this particular route obviously wasn't going to pass the tests environmentally."

Mr Portillo denied being committed to repealing Section 28, which bans the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

He denied suggestions he was in favour of gay marriages and deflected questions on his views about the legalisation of cannabis.