Petronella Wyatt

Wild card

Alan Duncan tells Petronella Wyatt that he is serious about his leadership bid (and that he now regrets having appeared in that saucy calendar)

Alan Duncan, the dapper shadow transport spokesman, is indisputably the most eye-catching of the Tory leadership contenders. Aside from being openly gay, he has a habit of saying and doing unusual things. Earlier in the year he posed for a charity calendar called ‘Men in Wellies’ wearing only a red Santa Claus hat, with a photograph of Lady Thatcher concealing his private parts. Recently, while launching his campaign, he cheerfully compared the Conservative party to an underwear department that needed frilly knickers.

Duncan’s behaviour, understandably, has led people to ask whether he is really serious. To find out, I went to see him at his house in Westminster. Duncan, 48 and slight of stature, is elegantly dressed without looking as if he has tried too hard. He is good-looking and has greying hair and a pleasant tenor voice.

I ask him if his standing for the leadership is all part of the game of being Alan Duncan, as his detractors claim, or does he really mean it? It appears that he does. ‘When you have a view of your country, you don’t want to miss the chance. I suppose I sometimes go where others fear to tread, which makes life a bit racy. But going for it has been very liberating. I want to be free to speak. I will either rise well or crash. I don’t care which.’

But surely he must care if he crashes? He looks thoughtful. ‘Well, if I think the natural grouping in the party supports me, we are on to a winner. If it doesn’t, I won’t be bitter.’ He continues, ‘We have David Davis’s way ahead and he’s great. I could work with him. Cameron is new on the block. But I think there is a view for the party that has not emerged from them.

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