Europhile defects from Tories to Lib-Dems

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The Independent Online
One of the Conservative Party's original Thatcherites, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, defected to the Liberal Democrats yesterday.

As Hugh Thomas, the latest Tory scalp in Paddy Ashdown's belt was chairman of the right-wing Centre for Policy Studies from 1979-1990 - the entire period of Margaret Thatcher's period in office.

But in spite of Baroness Thatcher's remarkable track record as a basher of the European Community, Lord Thomas said yesterday that he had switched parties because Conservative "attitudes towards the European Union as it is presently constituted, and as it is likely to develop, have become ever more critical and sceptical.

"Ironically, I resigned from the Labour Party in 1974 partly because of its attitude to Europe, and joined the Conservatives, since they were then the party of Europe. I have all my life supported the idea of the full participation of this country in the great European adventure begun in the 1950s, and have regretted our tardy responses to our neighbours' initiatives."

Lord Thomas added that he had become ill at ease in a party that had become so hostile on the critical issue of the European single currency.

A historian by profession, and currently visiting professor at the University of Boston, Lord Thomas, 66, is the author of books about the Spanish civil war, Suez, and the Cuban revolution.