The long-anticipated reshuffle of Conservative leader David Cameron’s frontbench team has led to the removal of a leading gay politician from a key role.
The BBC reports that Alan Duncan has been replaced as Shadow Business Secretary by Ken Clarke, former Chancellor, Home Secretary and three-times contender for the Tory party leadership.
Mr Duncan, 51, is one of three openly gay Tory frontbenchers and the first to enter into a civil partnership.
It is thought he will take another portfolio in the Shadow Cabinet.
Mr Cameron’s reshuffle is expected to be announced tomorrow.
The return of Mr Clarke to the frontbench had been widely trailed as a response to the reshuffle of the actual Cabinet after the Labour party conference last year.
The return of gay politican Peter Mandelson, thought to be the Prime Minister’s nemesis, from his role as European Commissioner to Cabinet as Business Secretary, had been hailed as a masterful decision.
Mandelson, with a seat in the Lords and the de facto role of Deputy Prime Minister, has energised Labour MPs and reignited interest in the government.
Some polls put the Tories at only 5% ahead in the polls, down from 20% in the middle of last year.
The BBC’s political correspondent Nick Robinson explained the significance of Mr Clarke’s return to the frontline to take on Baron Mandelson.
“The hope is he brings real firepower to that Tory front bench and also quite a lot of understanding of the plight they may face if they do make it into government.”
Ken Clarke holds the disctinction of being a minister throughout 18 years of Conservative rule from 1979 to 1997 under both Margaret Thatcher and John Major.
Less than a year after his appointment as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in 1998 Peter Mandelson was forced to resign after it emerged he purchased his west London home with an interest-free loan from a fellow Labour MP whose business dealings were under investigation by the department.
Many thought his career was over but just ten months later Tony Blair made him Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Mandelson was an effective negotiator and his efforts to bring peace to the province were praised on both sides of the political divide.
However, in January 2001 he was implicated in another scandal after it was alleged he intervened to try and get British citizenship for an Indian businessman who was being investigated for corruption.
He resigned but was later cleared of any wrongdoing.
In November 2004 Peter Mandelson was named as the UK’s appointee to the European Commission.