During clashes at Prime Minister’s Questions this afternoon Tory leader David Cameron lampooned the UK’s only out gay MEP.
Michael Cashman’s ground-breaking portrayal of Colin Russell in EastEnders between 1986 and 1989 saw the first gay kiss in a UK soap.
Mr Cashman became a Labour MEP in 1999 and is president of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights.
He is also a key figure in the Labour party, a member of the ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) and close to former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
During PMQs Mr Cameron questioned Prime Minister Gordon Brown over whether or not an internal Labour party inquiry into illegal donations from a property developer had been partially suspended.
Mr Brown replied that Lord Whitty continues to collect information, and therefore his inquiries were ongoing.
Mr Cameron said:
“I have a copy of the NEC minutes, which were written by Michael Cashman, you have with this government a former soap star to chronicle their woes, and the NEC minutes make it absolutely clear that parts of that inquiry were put on hold.
“The Prime Minister was telling the public on Saturday that he acted swiftly, but agreeing with the NEC that parts of the inquiry would be put on hold.”
Mr Brown urged the Conservative party to take part in the debate about party funding.
The Opposition leader’s comments went largely unreported, coming as they did during a series of bad-tempered exchanges across the dispatch box.
Mr Cashman, however, was clearly watching. A few hours later he issued a statement:
“I am staggered at the audacity of Cameron to refer to a confidential note which was made available to the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party) and the EPLP (European Parliamentary Labour Party) as their NEC representative.
“Cameron is a selective as ever and ducks from the truth.
“He refers to my NEC report to make cheap political shots, but fails to answer a letter that I have sent to him three times in the last year demanding that he explain why his MEPs have failed to vote in favour of equality issues in the European Parliament as well as failing to condemn homophobic and xenophobic violence.
“Furthermore, David Cameron should explain what he has against actors in soap operas.
“If he feels that they have no place in a modern world, perhaps he should explain that to the cast of Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Eastenders!“
Former soap actor and gay pin-up Adam Rickitt is one of the A-List of preferred Tory prospective parliamentary candidates.