Lord Deben, who served as Conservative Party chairman and Agriculture minister under Margaret Thatcher, says F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is a “sad man” for supporting Vladimir Putin’s stance on gay rights.

On Thursday, Lord Deben, better known as John Gummer before his 2010 peerage, tweeted PinkNews to say: “What a sad man, not to understand the climate of fear that Putin has created nor to condemn the attacks on gay men.”

Yesterday, in a CNN interview, Ecclestone defended the Russian leader for supporting laws against gay ‘propaganda’.

The 83-year-old head of Formula 1 said: “He [Putin] hasn’t said he doesn’t agree [with homosexuality] just that he doesn’t want these things publicised to an audience under the age of 18. I completely agree with those sentiments and if you took a world census you’d find 90% of the world agree with it as well.”

Ecclestone went on to say: “I’ve great admiration for him and his courage to say what he says…[It] may upset a few people but that’s how the world is. It’s how he sees [the world] and I think he’s completely right.”

Ahead of the start of the Sochi Winter Olympics, President Putin said gay people had nothing to fear from the laws as long as they leave children alone.