Tory MPs hope to rally more than 100 backbenchers to oppose Cameron’s attempt to legalise gay marriage
David Cameron is facing the threat of a fresh backbench Tory revolt as traditionalists line up to oppose government plans to legalise gay marriage.
Tory MPs, who have raised concerns about the move with ministers at meetings of the 1922 committee, are hoping to rally more than 100 backbenchers, according to the Independent.
The campaign raises the prospect of a rebellion that would dwarf the vote last October in favour of a referendum on Britain’s EU membership.
But there would be a key difference. The government imposed a three line whip in the EU vote. Backbenchers would probably be given a free vote in any vote on legalising gay marriage. This means that voting against the move would not technically count as a rebellion for backbenchers.
The prime minister announced at the Conservative conference last year that the government would hold a consultation on legalising gay marriage. He told the conference: “We’re consulting on legalising gay marriage. To anyone who has reservations, I say: Yes, it’s about equality, 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 despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.”
Traditionalists criticised the move by the prime minister which followed an announcement at the Liberal Democrat conference by Lynne Featherstone, the equalities minister.
Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, told the Daily Telegraph: “In seeking to re-define marriage David Cameron may have kept the coalition happy, but may also have signalled the end of conservatism. If you can’t conserve the institution of marriage, what can you conserve?”
A rebellion by more than 100 Conservative MPs would not threaten any legislation on gay marriage. All Liberal Democrat MPs would vote in favour, as would most Labour MPs. The Tory “payroll vote” – ministers and their aides – would be expected to support the government. The prime minister would be keen to ensure that a majority of his party’s 306 MPs supported the move.