Michael Portillo: David Cameron took an ‘enormous risk’ with equal marriage

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Former Conservative MP Michael Portillo says David Cameron took an “enormous risk” with his own party in legalising equal marriage for England and Wales.

Mr Portillo made the comments in his regular appearance on BBC’s This Week, after being asked if the prime minister had given up on his modernisation project for the Conservatives.

Presenter Andrew Neil quoted a senior Tory source who had allegedly ordered aides to “get rid of all the green crap” from energy bills in a bid to bring down costs.

Downing Street has said it did not “recognise” the phrase as one used by the prime minister.

Mr Neil also mentioned Tuesday’s keynote speech by Minister for Planning Nick Boles, where he warned against abandoning liberalism in the Tory party.

Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, Jon Ashworth, responded to his Conservative counterpart’s speech by saying: “Nick Boles, one of the prime minister’s closest advisers, has let the cat out of the bag. David Cameron’s so-called detoxification of the Tories has been a sham and his modernisation project is dead and buried.”

“I don’t think David Cameron has given up on Tory modernisation,” Michael Portillo said last night on This Week. “I think intellectually he needs to be in the centre ground in order to win the next election.”

The continuing commitment of the UK Government to give 0.7% of Gross National Income as overseas aid was an example of the Tory modernisation project having not been abandoned, the ex-MP claimed.

Mr Portillo added: “I think as a summary of [David Cameron’s] total position, to ignore the enormous risk he took with his own party, but actually I think it was a bit less than some people thought it was, of gay marriage, would be an unbalanced representation of what he has done to the Tory party.”

128 Conservative MPs voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act as part of its third reading in May, only 117 voted in favour.

Elsewhere, journalist Matthew d’Ancona has said the fact that Tory MP Crispin Blunt was forced to undergo a reselection process because a minority of Tory activists in his Reigate constituency had a problem with his sexuality is a development that should alarm the leadership.

On Tuesday, Mr Blunt wrote exclusively for PinkNews of his joy at being overwhelmingly reselected as the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Reigate in the 2015 general election.

He won the contest the previous day.