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Brokeback Coalition: David Davis 'compared Clegg and Cameron to gay cowboys'

David Davis, the man David Cameron beat for the Tory leadership, is said to have approvingly repeated a description of the partnership between Mr Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg as "Brokeback Coalition".

The former shadow home secretary also allegedly mocked the Prime Minister's vision of the "Big Society" as "Blairite dressing" that was designed to hide his desire to shrink the state.

According to the Financial Times, Mr Davis made his remarks to businessmen, including former colleagues from Tate & Lyle, during a private lunch at the Boot and Flogger wine bar in Southwark, south London, yesterday.

The MP was overheard saying that Lord Ashcroft, the ex-Conservative Party deputy chairman, had referred to the Government as "Brokeback Coalition" - a reference to the Oscar-winning film Brokeback Mountain, about a gay relationship.

Discussing the Big Society, he apparently made clear his belief that the concept was merely "a Blairite dressing".

"The corollary of the big society is the smaller state. If you talk about the small state, people think you're Attila the Hun. If you talk about the big society, people think you're Mother Teresa," he is said to have told guests.

Mr Davis, who joined the Tory frontbench after losing to Mr Cameron in 2005 before resigning to campaign against Labour's civil liberties policies, said he was enjoying the freedom of the backbenches.

But he apparently noted that there were not many jobs "unless you're female". This was, he said, because the Lib Dems had brought few women into office.

Dwelling on the Lib Dems' lack of ethnic minority MPs, he reportedly joked that David Laws, the gay former Treasury chief secretary who resigned in May over parliamentary expenses claims, was "one sort of minority" brought into the team, but he had left government "within a few weeks".

Mr Davis suggested that it "would not hurt" the Conservatives if their coalition partners split.

He apparently insisted many right-leaning Lib Dems held "seats that should be Tory", and proposed that the party could agree not to run against "20 or 25" such Lib Dems as part of an electoral pact.

Given their party's weakness, this would be "an offer you can't refuse" for a "guaranteed seat for life".

Mr Davis reportedly complained that the Government "has a mechanism for dealing with the Liberal party, most of whom are inside the coalition. It does not have a mechanism for dealing with the Conservative Party, most of whom are outside the coalition."

The FT said Mr Davis insisted he had been misheard when contacted over the remarks later.

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