Downing St makes last-ditch push for same-sex marriage
Downing Street is making a last-ditch push to persuade wavering MPs to vote for same-sex marriage as a prominent Westminster commentator claimed several secretly gay Tories plan to oppose the bill.
Ahead of a vote tomorrow, backbench MPs are coming under pressure to side with the Government on the Same-Sex Marriage Bill, even though it is a free vote.
The Prime Minister is likely to win the vote with the help of Labour and the Lib Dems but the issue has split his party. But up to 180 Conservative MPs, including some cabinet ministers, could reject of abstain from the legislation, which gives gay people the right to marry.
Michael Fabricant, a vice-chairman of the party, last night said he was disturbed to hear that some junior Government aides had been "telling backbenchers their career will be damaged if they... do not vote a particular way on the Gay Marriage vote".
Iain Dale, a Tory blogger, suggested several "closet case gays" in the Conservative party are potentially opening themselves up to charges of hypocrisy if they vote against the Government.
“I’ve been looking at the list of MPs who intend to vote against allowing gay people to marry on Tuesday,” he wrote. “I note with interest the names of several MPs who most people in the Westminster village know to be closet gays. And I note also the names of two supposedly straight MPs who I know to be conducting gay affairs at the moment.
“I don’t believe in ‘outing’ anyone, but because of the rank hypocrisy there will be others who will take a different view.”
Mr Dale, who is gay himself, added: "How is it possible to be married yourself, and yet at the same time vote to deny that privilege to someone whose pants you have just pulled down?"
As MPs prepare to debate the legislation for a second time, senior Tories hit the airwaves and press to suggest history will judge the Government well for introducing the new laws.
Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, urged her colleagues to "do the right thing now and for the future" in The Times today.
Sir Peter Bottomley, a Tory MP in favour of gay marriage, played down the importance of a group of local Tory Party Association chairmen who presented a petition against the policy to Downing Street.
He told BBC Radio Four's Today programme: "All the evidence shows that 60-40 people are content with this, I don’t think the majority is against, but those who are over-65 tend to be 60-40 against. People up to 65 tend to be 60-40 or more in favour. It’s generational, it’s not age. We’ve seen massive change. All we’re really saying is ‘should sexuality be a bar to making a lifelong commitment to another person’."
However, many MPs' views are firmly entrenched against the legislation. A new report today from right-leaning think-tank ResPublica argues that the Bill "fundamentally undermines marriage" and calls for it to be scrapped.