Senior Conservative Sir Alan Duncan has revealed that he was once denied a job as a government whip because he was gay.
The veteran Tory MP was the first sitting Conservative to voluntarily come out as gay in 2002, but his sexuality was common knowledge in Parliament years earlier.
The MP for Rutland and Melton, who currently serves as Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, opened up today about his experiences as a gay Tory MP in the 1990s.
He revealed that he was in line for a job as a government whip under Prime Minister John Major, but was ‘blackballed’ for the role because of his sexuality.
Speaking to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Show, Sir Alan said: “When I was first an MP, a senior officer in the party took me out to lunch and was probing, saying, ‘are you?’ but didn’t ask directly.
“It was like saying ‘have you got a secret criminal record?’ – I just thought this was absurd.”
“Someone on the conventional right of politics just needed to bust this, so I thought, right, I’m just going to say it, and whatever happens happens.”
He added that his career had been held back in the 1990s as his sexuality, an open secret in Parliament, was weaponised against him.
He said: “It was, ‘don’t make him a whip or a minister, because it’ll all be over the Mail one day’.
“Of course, the Daily Mail always [referred to me] as ‘the permanently bouffanted Alan Duncan’ or ‘the over-neat Alan Duncan’. All these little insinuations.
“I know I was blackballed from the whips’ office in the John Major Parliament, not by him, but by a couple of fellow whips, who just thought it would be too high risk.”
Of his decision to come out in 2002, he said: “I’d reached the point, having been in Parliament for ten years, that I was senior enough not to be dismissed as irrelevant.
“I had to be honest, and the time had come where, why the hell should it matter?”
He was speaking to the SNP’s Hannah Bardell as part of a segment exploring LGB Parliamentarians. There are still no transgender elected MPs.
Kezia Dugdale, the former Leader of Scottish Labour and a Member of the Scottish Parliament, also opened up about her experiences as a gay politician.
Ms Dugdale, who came out publicly just last year, revealed she did so after a journalist allegedly ignored her request to keep her private life out of an interview.
She would later pose with her partner at the polling station on election day, and accepted a PinkNews Award in 2016.