Double blow for Tories as MP defects amid poll gloom

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Indy Politics

Michael Howard's hopes of leading the Conservative Party towards political recovery were hit by a double blow yesterday, when a respected former government minister defected to Labour and an opinion poll suggested that the Tories could emerge from this year's election with even fewer MPs than in 1997.

Michael Howard's hopes of leading the Conservative Party towards political recovery were hit by a double blow yesterday, when a respected former government minister defected to Labour and an opinion poll suggested that the Tories could emerge from this year's election with even fewer MPs than in 1997.

The defection of Robert Jackson, who was a higher education minister under Margaret Thatcher, will not be a complete surprise, given his gradual estrangement from the party. A year ago, he was the only non-Labour MP to vote in favour of introducing variable tuition fees for university students, helping the Government to get the measure through the Commons.

He was due to retire at the election, after falling out with members of his Tory association in Wantage, Oxfordshire.

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