In an editorial the London Evening Standard has commented on today’s highly-anticipated absence of the same-sex marriage bill from the Queen’s Speech, saying David Cameron “must stick” with the policy in order to be seen as a “conviction politician”.
It comes as Labour MP Stephen Pound, who was among 22 Labour MPs to vote against the bill in February’s second reading, said: “This is becoming the bill that dare not speak its name,” adding: “The speech has UKIP’s footprints all over it.”
Downing Street said there was no need for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill to be in today’s speech because it was a “carry-over” measure introduced midway through the last session.
A senior source told PinkNews last Friday, with the bill already going through Parliament, there was no need for it to be mentioned and the source said it was expected that its passage through Parliament would be complete before the summer recess.
Despite last week’s heavy Tory losses to UKIP in the local elections, senior Conservatives, including Foreign Secretary William Hague, have rejected the suggestion that the Conservative Party should change direction on issues such as equal marriage and immigration.
Unlike the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats, the UK Independence Party is officially opposed to marriage rights for gay couples and only supports civil partnerships.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage believes David Cameron can only win back traditional Tory voters if he abandons his commitment towards marriage equality.
But in an editorial published on Wednesday, the London Evening Standard warned the Conservative Party against ditching the policy.
The bill has made it most of the way through the legislative process; there seems no reason why the PM should not reaffirm his intention to push ahead with it — unless he wants to play the matter down, as demanded by some on the Tory Right. Downing Street insists he is still committed to gay marriage yet its omission from the Queen’s Speech (unlike childcare, which is not even a matter for legislation) raises the suspicion that he wants to lower the public profile of the issue.
That would be a mistake. Getting gay marriage on the statute books is an ambition that David Cameron has made his own. If he wants to be seen as a conviction politician, he must stick by this most distinctive of his policies, one his party would not have adopted without him. Indeed, his leadership was once defined by his effort to liberalise the Conservative Party; this bill above all others embodies that approach. He cannot expend so much political energy on this bill only to kick it into the long grass now.
In fact it is unlikely that UKIP voters are greatly exercised about the issue; gay marriage is not their preoccupation so much as immigration and, to a lesser extent, Europe. Attitudes to gay marriage are marked more by a generational divide than a political one, even among people with the same religious convictions. Mr Cameron should stick to his guns. Voters ultimately respect politicians who stand by their principles more than those who downplay them when it seems expedient.