The number of openly gay Conservative MPs could treble at the next general election, research has suggested.

Currently, only Alan Duncan, the shadow leader of the House of Commons, shadow environment secretary Nick Herbert and Gregory Barker, the MP for Bexhill and Battle are openly gay.

However, a survey conducted by the ConservativeHome blog suggests that, if elected, the party may have another seven openly gay MPs.

The research looked at candidates in Tory-held and the top 200 target seats. While it did not specifically ask candidates about their sexuality, it did ask them what kind of politician they thought they were.

In seven cases, respondents voluntarily made reference to it, or were already known to be openly gay.

They were:

Stuart Andrew (Pudsey)
Nick Boles (Grantham and Stamford)
Mike Freer (Finchley and Golders Green)
David Gold (Eltham)
Margot James (Stourbridge)
Nick King (Dorset Mid and Poole North)
Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South)

Jonathan Isaby, co-editor of ConservativeHome, told PinkNews.co.uk: “It provoked much comment when David Gold became the first ever openly gay Conservative candidate when he unsuccessfully stood in Brighton Pavilion in 2001 – but these figures are a clear sign of how attitudes have changed in the Conservative Party in recent years.

“There are other gay candidates in addition to those I have identified in this research, but the attitude of many of those is that they simply don’t want to make an issue out of their sexuality.”