FORMER Tory darling Amanda Harland is now a Liberal Democrat.

And on making the switch today she blasted Tory leader Michael Howard's part in a "narrow-minded clique".

The former Colne Valley Conservative Parliamentary candidate lambasted the Tory leadership in her first interview since announcing she would be swapping Tory blue for Liberal Democrat yellow.

The 34-year-old, who was a member of the Conservatives for 14 years until she resigned from the Colne Valley contest amid accusations of sexist bullying at local party level, said: "I joined the Liberals because I resigned as a Conservative. I was able to stand free of involvement in politics and take a very unbiased view of what was going on and I decided on the Lib Dems."

Mrs Harland attacked her former party's weak line on defending civil liberties and their "wobbles on the ID card question".

She added: "The other issue was the war in Iraq. We needlessly went into a war in Iraq against United Nations advice.

"It's something we shouldn't have done as a nation and I think the Liberals were the only party which stood up to Government and said you took us in on a false pretence."

Mrs Harland, who was formerly a Tory councillor in Wantage, Oxfordshire, denied a lack of political morals.

She added: "I was more on the libertarian wing of the Conservative party, and therefore the Liberal Democrats isn't that much of a step."

Mrs Harland's political mentor, MP Robert Jackson, also caused a political ruckus when he switched from the Tories to Labour in January this year.

She added: "He is another reason I decided to come out of the Conservative Party, because he again is a moderate man.

"To see him walk the floor indicates to me that the Conservative Party has become increasingly a narrow-minded clique.

She said: "It used to be a moderate party, with views Left and Right.

"It's now increasingly authoritarian and Right-wing under Michael Howard's leadership."

But current Colne Valley Conservative candidate Maggie Throup said she didn't recognise the party Mrs Harland talked about.

She added: "I'm not going to rise to the bait and be sidetracked."

But Mrs Throup accused Mrs Harland of destroying any political credibility which she may have had.