A one-man rebellion in the Tory ranks

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Indy Politics

The first Conservative MP to vote against the new leadership of Michael Howard is Robert Jackson, an independent-minded author and journalist who made no secret of his intention to back the Government over university top-up fees.

When he telephoned Mr Howard to say that he would back him as Tory leader, Mr Jackson urged him to drop Iain Duncan Smith's pledge to abolish tuition fees.

Mr Jackson, 63, who criticised Mr Duncan Smith's stance in the autumn, was clear that he believed the Tory leader's decision was at odds with Conservative principles of free-market economics.

He was critical of the leadership of Mr Duncan Smith; and there was speculation that he was among the number of backbenchers who provoked a vote of confidence in the former Tory leader.

But the former Education minister, who also dissented from the official Conservative line to back the introduction of tuition fees in 1998, has insisted that his decision to back Mr Blair's proposals was in no way a challenge to Mr Howard's authority.

Yesterday in the Commons, Mr Jackson, a former leader writer for The Times, told the Conservative front bench that universities should not be beholden to the state and warned that the electorate would remember their mistake.

Mr Jackson, the author of several books about the European Union, was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in 1946. The son of a copper miner, he was educated in what was then Rhodesia and at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where he was president of the Oxford Union.

He was a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, where he lectured on international relations, and in the1970s served as an adviser to Lord Soames, the then governor of Rhodesia.

Mr Jackson became MP for Wantage in Oxfordshire in 1983 after serving as MEP for the upper Thames region between 1979 and 1983.

He is also a former political adviser to the late Lord Whitelaw when he was Secretary of State for Employment in 1973, and served as a minister for Education and later Employment.

He lists his interests as walking, gardening and singing.