South Tyneside Tory backlash over gay marriage vote

A SOUTH Tyneside Tory party boss believes Prime Minister David Cameron’s leadership has been damaged by his support of equal marriage.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is on its way to becoming law after MPs voted 400 to 175 in favour in Parliament on Tuesday.

But more than half of the Parliamentary Conservative Party voted against the proposal.

Speculation is widespread that Mr Cameron’s reputation among the grass roots of his party has been damaged as a result.

That’s a view shared by Edward Russell, deputy chairman of South Shields Conservative Association.

The town association had written to Mr Cameron on the eve of the proposed bill coming before Parliament, urging a U-turn.

It called for a deferral of the vote until the next Parliament.

In the wake of the yes vote, Mr Russell, of Cauldwell Place, South Shields, said he was “disappointed but not surprised” at the result.

He said: “This can’t have helped Mr Cameron’s position.

“We strongly believe as an association that the gay community has an influence which far exceeds its numbers. There was a poll in the Gazette which showed that 79 per cent were against same-sex marriages.

“This is a case of ignoring the views of the people. Cameron strengthened his position when announcing a vote on membership of the European Union, but this bill can do him no good, particularly as this policy was not even in the Conservative manifesto.”

South Shields MP David Miliband and Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn both voted yes in this week’s debate, with Mr Hepburn welcoming the bill’s stipulation that no church should be required to hold same-sex marriages if they do not wish to.

Mr Russell added: “I don’t think this vote has been helpful at all for the party. It only went through because of the support from the Lib Dems and Labour.

“I don’t believe it has gone down well with the Conservative Party faithful out in the country, particularly the older members.

“Mr Cameron had won a lot of support over his stance on Europe, and this was a vote which seemed an entirely unnecessary distraction.”