Alan Duncan was sacked from the Shadow Cabinet by David Cameron last night over his outspoken remarks that MPs were "on rations" after the controversy over their expenses.
He was dropped from his post as shadow Leader of the Commons and demoted to the relative backwater of Prisons spokesman. Crucially, his junior frontbench post is outside the Shadow Cabinet, so he has little or no chance of winning a place in the Cabinet if the Tories win the general election.
Mr Cameron was furious last month when it emerged that Mr Duncan had been secretly filmed at the Commons complaining that MPs were being forced to live on "rations" and had been treated like "shit" following the expenses scandal.
The millionaire former oil trader was accused of hypocrisy, forced to apologise and his position was widely thought to be in the balance. Tory insiders said that Mr Cameron had given the issue further thought after returning to work following his summer break.
Mr Duncan will work under Dominic Grieve, the shadow Justice Secretary. He will replace Edward Garnier, who becomes shadow Attorney General, a post previously held by Mr Grieve in addition to his role as opposite number to Jack Straw.
Tory aides hope the emergency mini-reshuffle will cement Mr Cameron's reputation for taking tough and decisive action over MPs' expenses. They said Mr Duncan's position in his old job became untenable after his remarks because he spoke for the Opposition on MPs' pay and expenses,
Mr Cameron summoned Mr Duncan yesterday afternoon and asked him to accept the Prisons brief. Sources said he readily agreed and told Mr Cameron he was relieved.
The Tory leader said last night: "I'm grateful for Alan's work as shadow Leader of the House and I'm sure he will continue to make a valuable contribution as shadow Justice minister. Alan Duncan's successor will be announced tomorrow."
There was some surprise at Westminster that Mr Duncan had accepted such a big demotion. He said: "This is a sensible decision. You have to be realistic about how difficult the expenses issue has been. What matters most is the winning the election and David Cameron becoming the prime minister. I don't want to be a brake on that by making a difficult issue more problematic. I am very happy to get stuck into another job."
It is the second time Mr Duncan has become a victim of the expenses controversy. He was forced to repay £4,000 of the second homes allowance he had claimed for gardening at his home in his Rutland and Melton constituency.
He then compounded his problems by inviting Heydon Prowse, an activist who staged a protest at his home over his claims, to the Commons. Mr Prowse recorded Mr Duncan complaining: "No one who has done anything in the outside world, or is capable of doing such a thing, will ever come into this place [the House of Commons] ever again, the way we are going. Basically, it's being nationalised. You have to live on rations and are treated like shit. I spend my money on my garden and claim a tiny fraction on what is proper. And I could claim the whole lot, but I don't."
Amid public anger, Mr Duncan said: "The last thing people want to hear is an MP whingeing about his pay and conditions. It is a huge honour to be an MP and my remarks, although meant in jest, were completely uncalled for. I apologise for them unreservedly."Reuse content