Nik Darlington 12.12pm
YouGov has just published the results of a poll that shows more than half of the population are in favour of changing the law to allow same-sex marriage.
Fifty-five per cent of people support the Government’s controversial proposals. However, Conservative voters are divided with 46 per cent in favour, 48 per cent opposed and the remaining 6 per cent undecided.
Meanwhile, 60 per cent of Labour supporters favour the change, as do 77 per cent of Liberal Democrats.
The polling demonstrates how divisive the matter has become. While it supports the Government’s conviction that a majority of people support marriage for same-sex couples, it is only by a whisker.
I remain a bit befuddled about why the policy was suggested at this point in time, and certainly without an electoral mandate to provide some credible covering fire.
Yet I also remain of the view that now the question has been posed, it is nigh on impossible to oppose the notion of allowing same-sex couples to marry (albeit protecting religious freedom). I certainly could not justify it on any reasonable level.
It is such a shame it has come to this. Tory MPs are being bombarded by furious complaints from apparently loyal party activists and voters in their constituencies, who are saying they could never vote Conservative again. I’d just make a few observations on that.
First, for many such disaffected supporters this severance may have been a long time coming. The marriage matter is the straw that breaks the camel’s back; it is not necessarily a singularly defining issue.
Secondly, there is no evidence to suggest that come election time this policy will be uppermost in voters’ minds. This works both ways, of course; quite why the party leadership presumes there’ll be some electoral benefit is beyond me. I sincerely hope that Mr Cameron et al are pressing ahead because it is the morally right thing to do, not to buy votes from a liberal, metropolitan cadre of younger citizens.
Thirdly, if people are threatening to leave the Conservative party over same-sex marriage, where are they going to go? The Labour party is whipping its MPs to vote in favour, Liberals will vote in favour, other fringe parties will vote in favour. A large proportion of Tory MPs - perhaps as many as half - will vote against (unlike the Opposition, Conservative MPs will have a free vote).
As with Europe, it could be argued that it is self-defeating to abandon the Tories (unless perhaps you vote in a constituency with a rare Eurosceptic Labour MP, such as Vauxhall or Birmingham Edgbaston). A Conservative Prime Minister wants to legalise civil same-sex marriage, but protect the right of churches and other religious groups to disagree. Who is to say what a future Labour government would decide to do?
I might be in favour of same-sex civil marriage, but it is plain to see that if you want to support a mainstream political party (i.e. a party that can actually get things done) that contains a significant element of people opposed to same-sex marriage, or protecting religious freedom, that party is the Conservative party.
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