Former Eastenders star and Labour MEP for the West Midlands, Michael Cashman, has hit back at Tory MP Michael Ancram for his comments on civil unions yesterday.

Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Ancram said treating civil unions like normal marriages “insults the intelligence of the British people.”

He continued: “They are not the equivalent of marriage.

“Giving them that equivalence does not enhance them; instead it diminishes the value of real marriage. In doing so it damages the concept of family and eventually of community.”

But today Mr Cashman hit back, saying Mr Ancram’s comments expose the true nature of the Conservative party under David Cameron.

He told pinknews.co.uk: “I welcome Michael Ancram’s exposure of the real Tory Party which proves that nothing has changed under Cameron.

“For all his PR gloss we cannot ignore the facts that his MEPs have consistently failed to vote in favour of equality measures, even abstaining on condemning racist, xenophobic, and homophobic violence.

“In the UK, we have legal equality, and social justice. The UK is a better, fairer place,” he continued.

“Yet the Tories would return us to the miseries and divisions of the past. They have opposed nearly every equality measure.

“Cameron’s conservatism is merely political opportunism.”

The letter threatens the further widen the rift in the Tory party, as increasingly vocal backbenchers question Mr Cameron’s modernising instincts and party strategists urge the leader to stick to the political centre.

Suspicions had been raised over the summer months that Mr Cameron was drifting rightwards to shore up his core support following a series of depressing poll results.

Front-bench comments on immigration, the EU and law and order seemed to corroborate that suspicion but a commitment this week to maintain Labour levels of public spending was designed to reassure centrist voters.

Any positive PR results the party may have hoped for fell to pieces with the revelation that Mr Ancram, former deputy leader and die-hard party loyalist, had written a 30 page manifesto calling on the party to return to its “Conservative soul.”

It was in this manifesto that he made his comments concerning civil unions.

They are likely to bring David Cameron’s somewhat mixed record on gay rights into the spotlight.

When Labour first mentioned repealing the Section 28 amendment- which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools – Mr Cameron said Mr Blair was obsessed with a fringe agenda, “including deeply unpopular moves like repealing Section 28 and allowing the promotion of homosexuality in schools.”

But later, in a bid to make the Conservative party appear more modern, he told the BBC: “At the end of the day, one section of our community did feel discriminated against by Section 28, and so I’m glad on that basis that it’s gone.”

The Tory party has been quick to distance itself from Mr Ancram’s comments.

A party spokesman said: “Michael Ancram is a blast from the past and the views expressed on civil partnerships are not those of the Conservative party or David Cameron.”