The Daily Mail, one of the cheerleaders of the anti-equal marriage press has accepted that David Cameron has been “brave” and is “acting on principle” with his proposals to make same-sex marriage equal. The paper argues though that it is the wrong battle for him to fight.

Last year, Mr Cameron told the Conservative Party conference: “to anyone who has reservations, I say this: Yes, it’s about equality [equal marriage], but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other.

“So I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.”

In an editorial in today’s Daily Mail, the newspaper says: “The Mail unreservedly accepts that David Cameron’s brave stand on gay marriage is based on principle.

“He genuinely believes homosexuals should have the same rights as heterosexuals.”

But the paper goes on to say: “Who can he hope to please by the messy compromise outlined this week?

“It’s easy enough to identify those he has displeased. They include traditionalists, gay and straight, of every major religion – Christian, Jewish and Muslim – baffled by his insistence on redefining an ancient institution, central to their beliefs.”

The Mail asks: “Will faith schools have to teach that gay and heterosexual marriage are the same? And won’t priests risk being taken to court for refusing to marry gay couples?

“Truly, politicians venture into deep waters when they meddle in religious affairs. Which is why state and church have traditionally been kept separate.

“But the really bitter irony is that Mr Cameron’s compromise has succeeded in exasperating supporters of gay marriage.

“Indeed, many are bewildered by the idea of allowing it in some churches, while banning it in the Church of England and the (disestablished) Church in Wales.

“If it is good enough for Muslims and Catholics (not that they’d permit it), then why not for Anglicans?”

Some gay rights campaigners including Peter Tatchell and Out4Marriage have questioned why the Churches of England and Wales will be banned from opting in like other churches and synagogues to perform same-sex marriages. Dr Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, described the ban “as a step too far.”

The paper concludes: “With attitudes changing, the Prime Minister is right to think most voters wish homosexuals well. But he is wrong to believe this is his ‘Clause IV moment’, as important to him as the rejection of nationalisation was to New Labour.

“There are much more important issues to engage his considerable talents.”