Govt minister: gay marriage cost Tories at local election

Fri, 4 May 2012

A Conservative government minister has said that his party’s poor performance at the local elections is partly down to its bid to redefine marriage.

Listen to Gerald Howarth’s comments

Gerald Howarth, a defence minister, made the comments after his party lost hundreds of seats, including some in the Prime Minister’s own constituency.

Mr Howarth told the BBC: “There are issues, for example, like the proposal for gay marriage.

‘No mandate’

“A lot of Conservatives have written to me saying ‘I am a lifelong Conservative, there is no mandate for this, why is this being proceeded with?’”.

He also commented that the contentious issue of reforming the House of Lords may have been a factor.

But William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, denied those issues had influenced the result.

Alienated

With results still coming in, the Conservatives have lost control of 11 councils and nearly 300 seats.

Among those areas taken by Labour were Witney Central, Witney East and Chipping Norton – which are all in David Cameron’s South Oxfordshire constituency.

Earlier this week a poll found voters in Witney are being alienated by Mr Cameron’s support for redefining marriage.

Two thirds of his constituents want to keep marriage as it is – between one man and one woman – the survey showed.

Too far

In October last year Mr Howarth, the MP for Aldershot, said the Prime Minster’s plan to redefine marriage was a “step too far”.

Mr Howarth insisted that rewriting the definition of marriage was a matter of “conscience” and that MPs should be granted a free vote.

He said: “Some of my best friends are in civil partnerships, which is fine, but I think it would be a step too far to suggest that this is marriage.

“I take the view that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.”

Coalition for Marriage, the nationwide campaign which is supporting traditional marriage, has seen close to 500,000 people sign its petition online. It can be signed here.

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