BY Ian Dunn | October 5 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Labour MPs face whip on marriage

Looming ban on conscience vote in spite of growing public opposition to marriage reform

The Labour Party may join the Liberal Democrats in forcing its MPs to support same-sex ‘marriage,’ denying them the chance to vote with their conscience on the issue if and when it comes before the House of Commons.

John Deighan, the Scottish Bishops’ parliamentary officer, said the move was indicative of an ‘intolerant mindset’ that threatened democracy.

Labour Leader Ed Miliband also said he was ‘wholeheartedly’ behind government proposals to legalise same-sex ‘marriage’ in England and Wales, going as far as to say he thought such unions should be conducted in churches.

The coalition government is currently carrying out a public consultation on the issue. Senior Labour figures told a London newspaper it is ‘highly likely’ that Labour will impose a three-line whip to instruct its MPs to vote for a redefinition of marriage.

Freedom of conscience

A recent poll found that eight out of ten MPs sought a free vote on the issue and Mr Deighan said their freedom of conscience had to be respected.

“It is bad enough for politicians to act against the common good by undermining marriage,” Mr Deighan said. “But to allow no room for the conscience of individual members of Parliament is frightening. Our democracy is not safe with such an intolerant mindset.”

Despite the unity of political parties in favour of same-sex ‘marriage,’ there is increasing opposition from the public. Three quarters of MPs who took part in a poll said they received more letters and emails opposing the Coalition Government’s plans to redefine marriage than in support.  Only a quarter of the MPs polled backed the idea that the Government should press ahead with the plans ‘irrespective’ of the size of opposition in the official consultation.

The document published earlier this year made clear that the Government would take all points raised into account but ‘not the number of responses received.’

ComRes polled 154 MPs, about a quarter of the Commons, on behalf of the Coalition For Marriage, which campaigns against any change to marriage.

In total, 74 per cent said they would sum up the balance of correspondence they received as negative, with almost half, 47 per cent, saying they were ‘strongly negative.’

Conservatives MPs registered the strongest opposition from constituents, with 81 per cent saying most correspondence was against the plan, but Liberal Democrats received similar levels of negative mail. Among Labour MPs, the figure was 64 per cent.

In total, 80 per cent of MPs backed a free vote on the issue, something supported by 94 per cent of Conservatives, 72 per cent of Labour MPs and 56 per cent of Liberal Democrats.

Growing opposition

Colin Hart, the campaign director of the Coalition For Marriage, said the poll showed the growing opposition to the redefinition of marriage.

“This poll will make uncomfortable reading for David Cameron and Nick Clegg, who continue to want to force through these undemocratic proposals regardless of what those who elected them say,” he said. “It shows a growing sense of unease at the way redefining marriage is being handled, not least now the concerns of ordinary people have been ignored.”



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