Gay Tory under fire over skiing trip as reshuffle rumours intensify

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Alan Duncan has been named as a possible candidate for demotion in David Cameron’s upcoming reshuffle.

Yesterday The Sun claimed the Shadow Business Secretary, who entered into a civil partnership last year, had angered fellow Tories.

He was abroad on Tuesday as Shadow Cabinet colleagues, including party leader David Cameron and Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, toured the UK to discuss the problems brought on by the credit crunch with local business people and politicians.

Mr Duncan was in Switzerland with the all-party skiing group.

There is speculation that former Chancellor and three-time candidate for the Tory leadership Kenneth Clarke will return to the frontbench as Shadow Business Secretary.

One Tory MP told the Daily Telegraph:

“Just imagine the Shadow Business Secretary is away skiing when we are going across the country to talk to people hurt by recession.

“And that, for a would be Business Secretary, at a time of massive economic and business upheaval. Contrast that with Peter Mandelson who has been everywhere since his return.”

The novel idea of matching one former Cabinet brusier with another has appealed to the press.

Mr Clarke is a popular figure with the public and his long experience of government, combined with a recognised and admired persona, could be a boost to David Cameron’s agruably lack-lustre shadow team.

Lord Mandelson’s return to frontline politics has energised Labour and the Tories have been sliding in the polls as voters turn to the government to help them through tough economic conditions.

Some Tories have condemned those attacking Mr Duncan via the press.

Blogger Iain Dale wrote:

“Whoever has been doing this briefing needs to be identified, tasered and then strung up from Vauxhall Bridge for a public flogging.

“Strangely, I didn’t get such a briefing – no doubt on the basis that the gay boys stick together.

“I hold no brief for Alan Duncan. Indeed, after his betrayal of David Davis in the leadership contest you might well think I had cause to welcome attacks on him. But I don’t.

“I think he is a talented individual who, on his day, is one of the party’s best communicators. If it were up to me I would offer him Transport.”

Most commentators are predicting that George Osbone will keep his job despite being politically compromised late last year over allegations he discussed a possible party donation with a Russian businessman.

The controversy centred around a Cofru summer party on board Oleg Deripaska’s yacht, attended by Lord Mandelson and Mr Osborne.

He denied claims that he attempted to solicit a £50,000 for the Conservative party. It is illegal for foreign nationals to donate to British political parties.

Other Shadow Cabinet members who are close to David Cameron are also thought to be staying put, such as Michael Gove, William Hague and Nick Herbert, the other out gay Shadow Cabinet member.

The reshuffle could see promotion for Eric Pickles, tipped for Party Chairman after his work at the Crewe and Nantwich by-election. It is unclear if the present Chairman, Caroline Spelman, will remain in the Shadow Cabinet.

Despite being well-regarded in the party, it emerged last year that she used parliamentary allowances to pay her nanny, claiming she also did secretarial work.

A Parliamentary investigation is due to report next month on whether she broke the rules.

Peter Ainsworth is unlikely to survive at Environment; he is viewed as being ineffective and has not managed to develop a media profile.

Jeremy Hunt, currently Shadow Culture Secretary, is tipped for promotion.

Others from the 2005 intake who may be promoted or moved to a more prominent role include Grant Shapps, Jeremy Hunt and Maria Miller.

It is likely this will be the last major reshuffle before the next general election, which must be called by June 2010.