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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Big Brother Derek backs Cameron
By Ollie Stone-Lee
BBC News political reporter at the Conservative conference in Blackpool

Big Brother's Derek Laud
Derek Laud says being gay and a Tory are among his minority groups
Conservative leadership challenger David Cameron has secured the backing of one of Britain's most famous Tories - Big Brother contestant Derek Laud.

Mr Laud told a Tory conference fringe meeting he did not think any of the would-be leaders would make it past the auditions of the reality TV show.

But the gay ex-Tory speechwriter said: "A very significant number of women vote in the Big Brother contest.

"Good looks are very important and David Cameron is very attractive."

It comes after Mr Cameron told the conference in Blackpool he wanted to switch on a whole new generation to the Conservative Party.

Jacuzzi politics

Mr Laud, who worked for former MP Michael Brown and helped write some of Margaret Thatcher's speeches, was speaking at a Countryside Alliance fringe meeting about the power of minorities.

He said he was a good candidate to speak about the issue since he belonged to a long list of minorities himself: he was gay, black, a fox hunter and a Conservative.

The Conservative Party has not appeared to be authentic, the body language does not appear to support what they say
Derek Laud

The Tories, he said, could learn from the Big Brother phenomenon - something he had pondered when not watching Anthony and Makosi's antics in the hot tub in the last series of the show.

He said he had proved popular on the show - surviving 10 of the 11 weeks - because he had "authenticity".

"I was being real," said Mr Laud. "The problem that the Conservative Party has had for some time is that it has not appeared to be authentic, that the body language does not appear to support what they say."

He said the public perception of the party was that it was obsessed with small issues that bore no relation to ordinary people's experiences.

Hunt group's impact

Mr Laud said minority groups should not be treated any differently from anybody else and argued it was involving individual people which mattered.

But shadow environment and rural affairs secretary Oliver Letwin said minority groups could have a "colossal seismic impact on British politics" by their impact on elections locally.

Mr Letwin said pro-hunt campaigners had prevented him losing his West Dorset seat to the Liberal Democrats at the general election.

Pro-hunters had also thwarted the wider Liberal Democrat "decapitation" strategy aimed at unseating a series of Tory frontbenchers, including David Davis and Theresa May.

In the end, Tim Collins was the only frontbencher to fall victim of the campaign.

Mr Letwin said the pro-hunters had changed the entire perception of Lib Dem performance in the election and so affected the balance of British politics.

This showed minority groups could have "huge" impact on the national scene by picking the right issues to focus on at a local level and changing those "little things".

Too rural?

The Vote OK group mobilised 17,000 volunteers at the last election to canvas for pro-hunt candidates in 136 seats, spending 60,000.

But Mr Letwin warned: "Do not let us gull ourselves into thinking that in the end the countryside and everything that goes on in it... is going to be protected merely by action of that kind."

Voters in towns had to be persuaded to recognise that the countryside was a "national treasure" which was there for everybody and conserved by farmers, he argued.

Tory chairman Francis Maude this week said the Conservatives had become seen too much as the party of the countryside.

But Tory MEP Neil Parrish insisted towns and the countryside were not mutually exclusive and the party could represent the whole country.

And Mr Letwin said the countryside could not be protected without improving towns and cities so there was not an exodus of people into rural areas, causing pressure for new house building.

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