Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has criticised the Tory leadership for “alienating” people over same-sex marriage.
PinkNews has obtained a recording of the Conservative politician – who is one of the party’s most prominent backbenchers – attacking equal marriage in a call with party members.
During the call, Tory Party Chairman Grant Shapps and Mr Rees-Mogg fielded questions from a number of activists.
A caller had said: “I know the gay marriage issue has been settled, but I think David Cameron would do well not to keep rubbing it in how pleased he was to have got that through onto the statute books.”
Mr Shapps deferred the question to the MP, responding: “Some of these issues, gay marriage being the obvious one, being a free vote so you may get a different view from Jacob.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg told the caller: “On gay marriage I agree with you, I’m not proud that this government passed that into law and it alienated a lot of our traditional supporters. So I think the least said soonest mended.”
Mr Rees-Mogg is a long-standing opponent of same-sex marriage, saying in 2013 that he will choose to be “whipped” by the Catholic Church rather than by his party.
“If this is a strategy the Conservatives won’t get any credit for it and it distressed many of our activists.”
“I think there is damage being done, some activists are leaving, some are considering joining UKIP in protest, and it’s the people who are the backbone of local associations who do the work who are the most put out by it.”
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A spokesman for Grant Shapps’ said the MP is still a strong supporter of same-sex marriage, and that Jacob Rees-Mogg was speaking for himself, not the party, in the recording.
Lisa Nandy MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Civil Society told PinkNews: “This shows the Tories’ true colours. Beneath the surface some Tory activists are uncomfortable and unconvinced by the advances we have made.”
A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: “Liberal Democrats are very proud of our instrumental role in getting the equal marriage act on the statute books.
“The UK is sending a powerful message to many LGBT people around the world, who do not enjoy the same freedoms as we do, that we stand with them.
“In total contrast to Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Liberal Democrats will continue to shout about how Britain is becoming a more open and tolerant society.”
Conservative Party Vice Chair and MP for Finchley and Golders Green Mike Freer told PinkNews: “The key issue is that Jacob Rees-Mogg is a backbencher, who voted against same-sex marriage and who is a practising Catholic, so his views are hardly a surprise. It is sad that Labour suggests this represents the Conservative Party. The Labour Party had very strong opponents of the Bill too – Stephen Timms, Shadow Minister and the Labour Party Faith Envoy. I don’t believe he has changed his views.
“The fact is the Prime Minister says this is one of his proudest achievements. It is not true to say it has damaged the Party. My membership in Finchley and Golders Green has grown since the Bill, the Party’s membership is up and the activist base is up.
“This smacks of desperation from the other parties who are clutching at straws.”
In the PinkNews political poll held last month, David Cameron was shown to be more popular than his party among LGBT voters. 84.6% of those questioned said that they would vote against their local MP, if their MP had not supported same-sex marriage, even if it meant voting against the political party they would like to govern the UK.