Crispin Blunt came out as gay
Crispin Blunt came out as gay (Reuters)

A campaign by local Tories to ban a former minister from standing again for parliament because he came out as gay has starkly highlighted David Cameron's ongoing battle to detoxify the party.

Senior figures in the Reigate constituency party had allegedly attempted to stop Crispin Blunt remaining as their candidate after his "totally unnecessary announcement" that he was homosexual.

But after a long battle which saw national party bosses throwing their weight behind Blunt, he won the day and will now remain as the candidate at the 2015 election.

David Cameron was said to be dismayed at reports that the local party had been manoeuvring to oust Blunt after he split with his wife and announced his sexuality in 2010.

It was reported that local party chairman Roger Newstead had written to a colleague declaring: "There is no doubt in my mind that his very public and totally unnecessary announcement that he was gay was the final straw for some members."

Later, Newstead said: "You don't have to go out and tell people you have got homosexual tendencies, that sort of thing. It is a private matter and it shouldn't have been put in the public domain. He put it in the public domain."

Local officials claimed there were several other reasons why local members were dissatisfied with Blunt's performance but others were convinced that the antagonism was because of his sexuality.

Cameron was particularly eager that Blunt should not be barred from standing again, fearing that all his moves to modernise the party and rid it of its "nasty" tag, including backing gay marriage, would be torpedoed.

Supporters of Blunt had dubbed their campaign to save him "Operation Meteor" which was meant to wipe out Tory "dinosaurs".

The affair has highlighted what many in the Tory high command have always known - that there is still a strongly "traditional" element in local constituencies.

Or, as critics have claimed, Cameron might have changed the label but the ingredients remain the same.