The Paymaster General, Francis Maude, one of the most pro-gay members of the Government has said that the Conservative party is no more divided than the country when it comes to same-sex marriage.

Mr Maude told the BBC’s Newsnight: “I think the Conservative party has divided roughly like the country does. I mean there’s a lot of people on one side, a lot of people on the other side. And it’s gone through Parliament with a big majority and that’s fine.

“It’s a free vote. MPs make their mind up.” He added: “This is a free vote, where MPs are encouraged to exercise their judgement on something which isn’t a party matter.”

Mr Maude, who told PinkNews.co.uk in 2006 about the death of his gay brother from AIDS told Newsnight :”I don’t agree with those of my colleagues who expressed themselves in that way. I and many Conservative MPs and many members of the Conservative party are completely relaxed about giving the benefits of marriage, making them available to all couples, whether they are different sex or same sex. We think this is not about making a dogma out of equality, but the benefits of marriage should be available to everyone.”

In 2006, while Conservative party chairman, Mr Maude told PinkNews.co.uk: “We’ve [The Conservative party] been seen for a long time as a party which hasn’t been very open to gay people. That’s wrong.” Asked if this was morally wrong, he said: “yes, totally. I feel very strongly about this, I had a brother who was gay and died from AIDs, 12 years ago now.”

Mr Maude tonight said: “An indication of the way in which things move is that many Conservative MPs who voted against the introduction of civil partnerships in 2004 now support civil partnerships. Sometimes parts of the Conservative party move, but they move more slowly, or a few paces behind prevailing social attitudes or the centre of gravity, social attitudes which have changed and will probably continue to change in ways it’s hard to predict.
“It would be presumptuous of me to assert this but it may well be that some of those who voted against equal marriage tonight will in years to come their view. I don’t know.”

Last year, attempting to convince Tory MPs to support equal marriage, Mr Maude said: “If we are seen as being defined by backward-looking social attitudes we will be seen as unacceptable and unelectable.”