As the right-wing press continue to cry out over gay marriage and stoke claims of Tory MPs rebelling en-mass on the issue another Conservative MP has spoken out in favour of same-sex marriage. Sir Peter Bottomley is the MP for Worthing West and speaking on BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme played down media reports of mass unrest amongst the conservative party over gay marriage.
Yesterday around 20 former and serving Conservative chairmen handed over a letter to Number 10 which urged the coalition government to delay a vote on introducing gay marriage until after the next general election in 2015; the letter warned if the party went ahead with Tuesday’s vote – and if gay marriage was legalised – it would face a huge backlash from grass root supporters.
The right-wing press were keen to stress the importance of the letter but Sir Peter Bottomley accused the media of over-hyping it. The Tory MP told the Today programme”There are, say, 630 associations, there’s now two active officers for each one, that’s over 1200. Twenty five past and present officers went to Downing Street – 25 out of over 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 – doesn’t strike me as newsworthy”
On the issue of gay marriage itself Sir Peter told Today “Conservatives believe in fairness, we now understand that to move from a civil partnership to civil marriage is to allow the words ‘I will’ at the ceremony, with the registrar. It’s not going to be a big deal. So I think somehow, whether it’s Conservative MPs, whether it’s campaigners, whether it’s some of the media, they’ve said ‘Oh, there’s sex in this, let’s give it more prominence than it deserves”
There are conflicting reports in the media over how many Tory MPs are expected to vote against the government tomorrow – and some reports claim many will abstain rather than vote no. The reports claim that anywhere between 150 and 200 MPs will vote against gay marriage.
On the possible number of MPs voting against the marriage bill Sir Peter told the Today programme “We don’t know how they’re going to vote yet because we haven’t had the vote, let’s have the vote tomorrow and then count. Then let’s look back to when I came into parliament in the 1970s after Margaret Thatcher had been one of the Tory MPs who, as a minority, had voted to decriminalise homosexuality, most people forget that. In 1975 when I was elected, others were being selected, you had to say you were in favour of capital punishment to get selected. I’m not accusing any of my colleagues of twisting their views but I think if anyone said ‘are there similarities?’, I’d say, ‘ask them’.”
The Tory MP also pointed out that the majority of the public are supporters of same-sex marriage as demonstrated through repeated opinion polls. “All the evidence shows that 60-40 people are content with this, I don’t think the majority is [opposed], 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 it’s generational.”
The gay marriage bill has the support of David Cameron, George Osborne and other top Tory MPs such as Theresa May and Michael Gove. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband are also supporters of same-sex marriage. Other MPs who have stated their support for gay marriage include Caroline Lucas, Danny Alexander, Lynn Featherstone, Jack Straw, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham many of whom have recorded video messages for the Out4Marriage campaign.