James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire - Marriage reform wasn’t part of any manifesto (From This Is Wiltshire)
James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire - Marriage reform wasn’t part of any manifesto
It's a funny old business, politics.
You will recall my three main rebellions against the coalition in recent months.
I voted in favour of an in/out referendum on our membership of the EU. My friends in the whips office gave me a hard time, but now its party policy!
Then I voted to give the EU less money – again I find myself in the mainstream on the subject.
And third, I voted down the House of Lords’ reform and I am glad I did.
Last week the Government was defeated in its effort to bring in fair votes – the proposed boundary changes would have equalised the value of each person’s vote – 100,000 voters in many constituencies in East Anglia, 40,000 in some Labour seats in Wales and urban areas. How can that be fair?
Yet the Lib Dems, who usually make such a fuss about ‘fair votes’, supported Labour in defeating our proposals, thereby casting aside principle in favour of straightforward party political advantage.
They sought to justify this latest in their string of cynical volte-faces by claiming it as revenge for their defeat over House of Lords’ reform, despite the fact that they know perfectly well that the two were not in any way linked.
Their terror of the ballot box may well be justified come May 2015.
My latest rebellion this week was over the proposals (inspired by the Lib Dems) to allow gay marriage. I have written about this recently, explaining why I am, on balance, opposed to it. Once again, it got through Second Reading in the Commons thanks to Labour and their friends the Lib Dems.
But I am very glad that 136 of my Conservative colleagues, including several ministers, eight whips plus a handful of brave Labour MPs voted with their conscience and against the proposals to redefine marriage (only 127 Tories supported the Bill with a further 40 abstaining).
Attention will now turn to the Lords and I very much hope that they will note the strength of opposition in the Commons and around the country and, realising that reforming marriage formed no part of any party’s manifesto, and therefore really cannot become a subject for the ‘Parliament Act’, (which allows the Commons to force a measure through despite Lords’ objections to it), will do what they can to stop it becoming law.
If so I will once again be glad that my third rebellion – over Lords’ reform – was the right thing to have done.