UK Politics

Redwood warns MPs against setting up 'Brokeback Club'

John Redwood
Image caption John Redwood ran for the Tory leadership in 1995

Former Tory cabinet minister John Redwood has warned colleagues against forming a "Brokeback Club" to criticise the coalition government.

The right-winger's comments follow claims such a group is being formed.

Ex-shadow home secretary David Davis reportedly said last week that ex-Tory deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft had named the government a "Brokeback Coalition".

Mr Davis said the reported reference to the gay cowboy film Brokeback Mountain was a mis-hearing.

According to the Financial Times, the comments were made during a lunch meeting with business leaders at the Boot and Flogger wine bar in Southwark, south London, on Thursday.

Mr Davis, who lost the 2005 Conservative leadership contest to Mr Cameron, also apparently ridiculed the prime minister's "Big Society" campaign to boost civic engagement as "Blairite dressing" for spending cuts.

'Not sponsoring'

Asked about rumours that a club of Tory backbench MPs sceptical about the coalition with the Liberal Democracts is being set up in the wake of Mr Davis's alleged remarks, Mr Redwood, who chairs his party's economic competitiveness policy group, warned against it.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he had heard of the supposed development only through the media.

"No, I haven't been sponsoring it. I haven't been invited to join it and my advice to colleagues is I wouldn't do it," Mr Redwood said.

Backbench Conservative MP Mark Pritchard, secretary of the influential 1922 committee, is reported by the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph to be trying to get three right-wing Tory "dining clubs" - the No Turning Back group, the '92 group and Cornerstone - to talk to each other.

But the MP for the Wrekin laughed off suggestions he was setting up a "Brokeback dining club" to oppose the coalition when contacted by the BBC, saying: "I know nothing about a dining club".

On Sunday Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg dismissed suggestions of tensions within the government.

Referring to the "Brokeback coalition" reference, he said: "It is a colourful phrase, but I do not think it really captures the spirit of the coalition, which is two separate parties led by two separate leaders - myself and David Cameron - recognising that this country is facing some very difficult short-term challenges."

He stressed it was about coming together "in the national interest".

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, a Conservative, said "Brokeback coalition" was "a very catchy phrase" but the government arrangement was all about "people from different parties rolling up their sleeves."

Last week, Lib Dem MP Tim Farron, who recently lost the contest to become the party's deputy leader, told the BBC: "The reality is that David Cameron has a toxic brand....His brand, including most of his MPs, are toxic."

He also said that his party had been brought into the coalition to provide "some cover for them".

Mr Redwood, the former Welsh secretary, ran for the Conservative leadership in 1995, losing the contest against the then Prime Minister, John Major.