Tory waverers press-ganged to back Cameron on gay marriage vote

Backbenchers warned they will jeopardise careers by opposing Bill

Dozens of wavering Conservative MPs, including some cabinet ministers, were facing intense pressure tonight to put aside their reservations and back the Government’s Bill to legalise gay marriage tomorrow.

While Downing Street insisted it was not “press-ganging” MPs to support David Cameron in the free vote, a succession of cabinet allies took to the airwaves to endorse the move.

The Bill will certainly pass with Labour and Liberal Democrat support. But Downing Street is anxious to avoid a situation in a majority of Mr Cameron’s own MPs vote against him on such a contentious issue.

Some junior ministers were said to have warned backbench colleagues that their careers could be damaged if they voted against the Government while George Osborne is understood to have been contacting MPs whose position is still uncertain.

The Foreign Secretary William Hague said last night that those opposed to gay marriage would be on the wrong side of history.

“I think as times have changed, civil partnerships came in... Within a remarkably short period of time, those things become accepted,” he said.

 “I think the same will happen with this.”

In a sign of the deep tension within the Conservative Party on the issue the Conservative blogger Iain Dale even suggested that some privately gay MPs could be “outed” if they voted against gay marriage.

“I’ve been looking at the list of MPs who intend to vote against allowing gay people to marry on Tuesday,” he wrote. “I note with interest the names of several MPs who most people in the Westminster village know to be closet gays. And I note also the names of two supposedly straight MPs who I know to be conducting gay affairs at the moment.

“I don’t believe in ‘outing’ anyone, but because of the rank hypocrisy there will be others who will take a different view.”

Campaigners calculate that, of the 303 Conservative MPs, 114 are likely to vote against the proposal and 108 in favour. The spotlight has now turned on the 81 MPs thought to be either neutral or undecided, with their votes set to determine whether Mr Cameron can claim the backing of a majority of his parliamentary party.

But the undecided face an equally fierce lobbying campaign from opponents of gay marriage who are warning that they could face losing the seats by alienating traditional Tory supporters.

Today Mr Cameron was sent a letter, signed by 25 chairmen or former chairmen of Conservative Party associations, warning that the policy will cause “significant damage”.

Geoffrey Vero, chairman of the Conservative association in Surrey Heath who organised the letter, said more than 25 party members had quit locally over gay marriage.

“I think a number of Conservative supporters and voters will sit on their hands on the issue and that may seriously affect David’s opportunity to get re-elected at 2015 and we think that is a dangerous risk to take with your core supporters,” he said.

But his own MP, the Education Secretary Michael Gove, wrote an article for The Mail on Sunday calling for his colleagues to back the move “in decisive terms”.

“Some people might think it curious that a Tory politician should be making these arguments,” he said. “But I want to change the law on marriage because of my Conservative convictions.”

He was backed by the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt who said: “Every year thousands of people choose to marry in a church rather than a registry office because they believe marriage is sacred. Religious freedom is not just for heterosexuals – we should not deny anyone the right to make a life-long commitment to another person in front of God if that is what they believe and that is what their church allows.”

But despite this at least two cabinet ministers – the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and Welsh Secretary David Jones – are expected to vote against the plans while the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond will vote against or abstain and the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith could also abstain.

The government whips Stephen Crabb, David Evennett, Robert Goodwill, Mark Lancaster, Nicky Morgan and John Randall are also likely to oppose or abstain as well as junior ministers Mike Penning, John Hayes and Jeremy Wright. One of the Bill’s opponents, the former children’s minister Tim Loughton warned the Bill was “full of pitfalls”.

“There’s quite a lot of things that were in our manifesto which made it to the Coalition Agreement which we have yet to deliver,” he said. “Gay marriage is something on which we had no Green Paper, no White Paper, no manifesto commitment of any party. It wasn’t in the Coalition Agreement, and all of a sudden it is taking huge priority. It is going to take up a lot of parliamentary time and is going set MP against MP, and we don’t need it.”

For:

1 David Cameron

2 William Hague

3 George Osborne

4 Theresa May

5 Michael Gove

6 Eric Pickles

7 Jeremy Hunt

8 Justine Greening

9 Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling

10 Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin

11 Culture Secretary, Maria Miller

12 Minister without Portfolio, Ken Clarke

13 Leader of the Commons, Andrew Lansley 

14 Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers

15 Chief Whip, Sir George Young

16 Minister for the Cabinet  Office, Francis Maude

17 Minister for government policy, Oliver Letwin

18 Conservative chairman, Grant Shapps

Unclear

1 Minister of Business, Innovation and Skills, David Willetts

2 Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith

3 Attorney General,  Dominic Grieve

Against

Environment Secretary: Owen Paterson

Welsh Secretary: David Jones

Defence Secretary: Philip Hammond

Paterson and Jones are almost certain to vote against the measure but supporters hope to persuade Hammond to abstain.

 

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

Recruitment Genius: Factory Operatives

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer ba...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003