Thatcher may be invited to civil partnership

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s closeness to Tory Shadow Cabinet member Alan Duncan has led to speculation she will be invited to celebrate his civil partnership later this year.

The Sunday Times reports that up to 300 people may attend the ceremony.

Last week Mr Duncan became the first Conservative MP to announce his intention to enter into a civil partnership.

He refused to comment on whether or not Lady Thatcher, who was Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, will be invited.

They reportedly dine together often and are close friends.

The 81-year-old was taken to hospital on Friday night after being taken ill at a House of Lords reception but was released the next day after routine tests and is reported to be in good spirits.

Mr Duncan has accused current Prime Minister Gordon Brown of being “very uncomfortable” about gay rights issues.

“It’s the sort of thing that seems to send him into hiding,” he told The Sunday Times.

“Whereas Tony Blair was totally confident – really a fantastically constructive influence.”

Towards the end of Mrs Thatcher’s time in office her government introduced Section 28, which forbade the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools.

The policy has been blamed for creating a culture of silence around homosexuality and left gay pupils open to homophobic abuse from other pupils and even teachers.

The Labour government abolished Section 28 and has issued guidelines for schools on how to deal with homophobic bullying.

Mr Duncan, 50, is the Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and has been MP for Rutland and Melton since 1992.

He met 39-year-old James Dunseath at a dinner arranged by friends 14 months ago and proposed to him on Valentine’s Day during a holiday in Oman.

Mr Duncan acknowledged that homophobic bullying is still a serious issue in schools and needs to be tackled, but also suggested that some schools are going too far in trying to stamp it out.

“Everybody’s being taught that if you tease someone nicely about their sexuality, then that is necessarily homophobic,” he told The Sunday Times.

“Well, actually, we need to get through that barrier, to the point where you can tease because it isn’t an issue.

“I actually find that being able to laugh at myself and make jokes against myself is a very useful tool in breaking down barriers and making people feel comfortable all round.”