Nicholson berates `heartless Tories'

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The Independent Online

The former Tory MP Emma Nicholson, who defected to the Liberal Democrats last year, was applauded yesterday when she attacked her old party's "heartless policies" on homelessness.

Speaking at the Scottish Liberal Democrats annual conference in Aberdeen, Mrs Nicholson received a huge welcome when she told delegates how Tory policy was "vastly inadequate" for tackling the increasing problem of homeless people on British streets.

Referring to her defection, she said "1995 was the year my tolerance for heartless Conservative policies ran out".

Conservative Central Office had said her decision to leave was not due to political differences but was over her annoyance at not having achieved higher office within the party. Since then the war of words between herself and Central Office has been bloody.

Before her latest attack yesterday Mrs Nicholson had insisted John Major was paralysed by indecision and relying on what she called the "worst, hard-faced, populist instincts of people who would have been no more than a small and disregarded right-wing pressure group in the Tory party that I joined 21 years ago. The party has changed - and for the worse".

In her address during a debate on homelessness, Mrs Nicholson said policies of bed and breakfast accommodation left mothers and children on the street during the day. She claimed as the situation worsened mothers and children would be on the streets "24 hours a day".

The conference motion opposed the new Asylum and Immigration Bill and right-to-buy legislation which delegates claimed was worsening the homeless situation in both rural and urban areas.