Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has landed in hot water over his slur that opponents of gay marriage are just ‘bigots’.
His sneering remark appeared in a draft speech which he was due to give at an event last night.
The speech was circulated in advance to the media, but 90 minutes later his aides tried to cover up the gaffe by issuing a revised version without the ‘bigots’ jibe.
Mr Clegg originally intended to say: “Continued trouble in the economy gives the bigots a stick to beat us with, as they demand we ‘postpone’ the equalities agenda in order to deal with ‘the things people really care about’.”
But the revised version issued by Mr Clegg’s officials replaced “the bigots” with “some people”.
Colin Hart, speaking for the Coalition for Marriage, said: “These intolerant remarks show that there is nothing liberal about Nick Clegg.
“It also shows his contempt for the millions of ordinary men and women in this country who oppose the politically correct drive to rip up the centuries-old definition of marriage.
“Perhaps Mr Clegg should stop attacking the British public and concentrate on fixing the UK’s broken economy”.
In an editorial comment, the Daily Mail newspaper said: “In an unguarded moment of frankness, Nick Clegg reveals his true feelings about opponents of gay marriage.
“Never mind that they include ministers of every religion, academics, lawyers, charity workers and countless other thoughtful Britons, straight and gay.
“In the view of the Deputy Prime Minister, one word sums them up. They are ‘bigots’, who use the excuse of the economic crisis to say the Coalition should be concentrating instead on the issues that really matter.
“Could there be a more damningly revealing insight into the arrogance of a student politician who doesn’t begin to understand the issues involved in altering the age-old definition of marriage, or the honest concerns of those who oppose change?”
Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, said: “There will be many Christians and non-Christians who will be highly offended to be called bigots.
“People who oppose same-sex marriages are doing so on the basis of deeply-held beliefs and we should not be treated in such a way.
“These are important issues that affect society and therefore it is paramount for the Government to give serious attention to those who oppose the rush into gay marriage.”
Nick Clegg’s official spokesman tried to defuse the row, saying: “This was not something the Deputy Prime Minister has said.
“It’s not something he was ever going to say, because it’s not something he believes. It was removed from the draft copy, that should never have been sent out, for that very reason.”