TOM Conti, the Scottish actor who has been a long-standing Labour supporter, has revealed he has turned his back on the party and now supports the Conservatives.

The 73-year-old thespian admitted that Left was "the thing to be" among the acting fraternity and that for 40 years he was a true Labour supporter.

But he explained that in the last decade he had come to view socialism as a religion with a "vicious, hostile spirit".

"It was the unpleasantness that alerted me," declared Mr Conti. "Labour, I realised, was built on hatred; quite understandable in the days of uncaring coal-mine and mill-owners. But those days - apart from the odd rotten boss - have gone. Yet the hatred remains."

He pointed to the case of Glasgow-born computer hacker and Asperger's sufferer Gary McKinnon, who was threatened with extradition to the US under Labour Home Secretary Alan Johnson but who was "spared only by the compassion of Johnson's Tory successor, Theresa May".

Mr Conti argued Conservatism was about enabling people to improve their lives.

"The understanding that individuals should move up the socio-economic ladder at least every generation. In contrast, Labour thinks it knows best; it doesn't. People know best; both about their lives and their businesses and the Conservatives understand that."

The Paisley-born actor stressed: "I fear that because Labour is blind to this, it will destroy aspiration in this country and return Britain to the destructive culture of entitlement that existed under Blair and Brown."

Mr Conti argued that through income tax increases and measures like the mansion tax, Labour would target those whose diligence and industry had brought them success. "It will hit those of all classes whose only crime is to want to better themselves."

He added: "The fact is that it's vital for the success of a country to have a thriving and growing middle class. If you want to keep the class war raging and stay poor, vote Labour."