Party becoming a rump, says Skidelsky

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Lord Skidelsky, the Tory peer who last week announced that he was leaving the Conservative party in protest at the direction taken by Iain Duncan Smith, has renewed his attack on anti-intellectual bias in the party and said he fears it is becoming a "rump".

"I am an intellectual and I don't see why I should hide that," he said. "The party no longer offers a happy home to people like me."

The biographer of John Maynard Keynes and former Treasury spokesman in the Lords added scathing criticisms of the new leadership to comments earlier in the week about the party's alleged Europhobia. "Being a Conservative intellectual now feels like a contradiction in terms. They are not comfortable with people like me. They see academics as mad boffins and I no longer felt I was any use to them. You have to keep an open mind as a thinker and this party has closed its mind on too many issues."

Lord Skidelsky is the first senior figure to leave the party since Mr Duncan Smith became leader. His reversion to the crossbenches will strengthen fears that the Conservatives are drifting to the right and failing to recapture the centre ground.

He attacked Mr Duncan Smith's decision to send frontbenchers to Europe to learn from the running of the public services: "Here is a party which hardly ever consults [thinkers in its own ranks]. I can't think what point there is in sending abroad to find out what is staring them in the face at home."