Crispin Blunt has successfully secured an overwhelming vote from local Conservatives to remain as the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Reigate at the 2015 General Election, after executive committee members attempted to unseat him, some say, because he came out as gay.
The margin of victory for the Reigate MP was 5 votes to 1. The gay MP was forced to undergo a new selection process by his local Conservative Association’s Executive Council in September.
Despite denials by several members that Mr Blunt’s sexuality was the reason behind the decision to remove support, some had gone on record to say they would not have supported a gay candidate.
In 2010, Mr Blunt revealed that he had separated from his wife to “come to terms with his homosexuality”.
One member of the executive committee Tony Collinson, did not say whether he had supported Mr Blunt, but did say that he thought homosexuality was wrong.
Mr Collinson said: “Everyone is entitled to their own view and we had a secret ballot on it and I don’t think I should make any comment,” he said.
“I can tell you that the selection committee was not happy to have anyone that might have had any sort of thing in the cupboard.
“I’m a Christian and I don’t think in fact that [homosexuality] is right. But that is entirely up to people. They must search their own consciences.”
Another member, Roger Newstead, in a letter, explained to a fellow Conservative Party member: “There is no doubt in my mind that [Crispin Blunt’s] very public and totally unnecessary announcement that he was ‘gay’ was the final straw for some members”.
He said, however, that the letter was private, and it was designed to highlight the fact that he was not homophobic, as had been suggested.
“I still say it was unnecessary [for Crispin Blunt to come out],” he said. “To me it was an error of judgment. I wouldn’t have done anything like that. I would have just said if anyone had asked me: politicians have a unique lifestyle, it doesn’t suit everybody and there is a long history of parliamentary marriages breaking down.
“You don’t have to go out and tell people you have got homosexual tendencies – that sort of thing you know. It is a private matter and it shouldn’t have been put in the public domain. He put it in the public domain.”
Dr Ben Mearns, former local councillor and a friend of Mr Blunt, said the whole process had been “quite shocking”, and that he believed Mr Blunt’s decision to come out as gay had been central to the attempts to unseat him.
“Crispin has been reselected unanimously every time in the past as far as I’m aware,” he said. “It is shocking that this group of people who are supposed to represent the local association would try to deselect our MP. Not one of them had the decency to tell him there was any kind of problem before this vote happened.
“I do know there are certain people on the committee that have well-published views that are homophobic.”
The ballot of around 400 members came after the Reigate and Banstead Conservative Association’s Executive Council of 22 officers failed to give Crispin its endorsement to automatically retain the candidacy in a secret ballot on 24th September 2013.
Speaking after the count of the postal ballot at Conservative Campaign Headquarters in Westminster, Mr Blunt said: “I am absolutely delighted to receive such a strong endorsement from members of the Reigate and Banstead Conservative Association. I now look forward to the chance to defend my record as Member of Parliament for Reigate in 2015 and make the case for a majority Conservative government.
“I would like to thank everyone who has helped me to secure the ballot: friends, colleagues, but especially those constituents, including those who support other political parties, who have been kind enough to make such touching messages of support.
“With this overwhelming endorsement I wish to reinvigorate and unite the local party, having reflected on the circumstances which led to this result.
“I very much regret that this ballot had to take place at all. Like many of my supporters I was astonished by the irrational and unexpected action of the Executive Council in September. It came without warning that there was any aspect of my performance as MP that was terminally inadequate, and, in the absence of any serious issue around my performance as MP, brought the local party into disrepute. Happily the wider membership has rescued the reputation of Reigate and the Conservatives by a thumping margin.
“Today’s result makes a clear statement about Reigate and the Conservative Party: that we are fair; that we are tolerant; and that we judge others on their ability, not on characteristics that are beyond their control.
“Those members of the Executive Council who voted against my candidacy in the absence of a cogent reason they could publicly present and having now been so convincingly contradicted by the wider membership must ask themselves how they can best assist uniting and reinvigorating a party which is overwhelmingly united around my candidacy.
“I take very seriously the trust and kindness that Association members have shown to me, and want to use that confidence to best advance the Conservative cause locally and nationally.”
Dr Mearns said the executive committee should be replaced, as it has proven itself to be out of touch with the Conservative membership’s views.
A whole raft of senior Tories, including David Cameron and George Osborne, said last month that they had hoped Mr Blunt would be reselected as the parliamentary 2015 Tory candidate for Reigate in Surrey.
He has been a passionate advocate of LGBT rights in recent years and a strong supporter of David Cameron’s commitment to legalise equal marriage in England and Wales.
In May 2012, Mr Blunt recorded an Out4Marriage video. The MP is also a patron of the Kaleidoscope Trust – a UK based international LGBT rights charity.
Ahead of May’s third reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, Mr Blunt told PinkNews.co.uk that David Cameron had shown “fantastic leadership” on equal marriage.