News from Conservative Grassroots
3 Feb 2013
At 1.30pm on Sunday 3rd February, a delegation of local Conservative Association Chairmen will deliver a strongly worded letter to Downing Street urging the Prime Minister to delay any Parliamentary decision on the issue of same-sex marriage until after the next election.
The move comes amidst growing unease amongst local Conservatives over the impact of the Government’s ‘Same-Sex Marriage’ plans.
The letter (full text available here) will be hand delivered and is signed by more than 20 senior local Conservatives.
The delivery of the letter coincides with the launch of the Conservative Grassroots website - an online platform that seeks to prosper relationships and provide resources for local Conservatives concerned that the current leadership is losing touch with the core values of Conservatism.
In their letter, the current and recent Chairmen, who describe themselves as “long-standing members of the Conservative Party, [who] want to support the Party to victory, as we have done in every past election” underline the depth of their concern over the impact of the plans on party morale and electoral appeal.
Writing “specifically out of our concerns about the growing discord within the Conservative Party over this issue” they close their letter by stating that “resignations from the Party are beginning to multiply and we fear that, if enacted, this Bill will lead to significant damage to the Conservative Party in the run up to the 2015 election.”
Whilst they draw attention to public opinion on the proposals, the existence of Civil Partnerships and the inadequacy of protections for religious freedom, the Chairmen reserve particular criticism for the lack of proper process and debate, writing:
“We feel very strongly that the decision to bring this Bill before Parliament has been made without adequate debate or consultation with either the membership of the Conservative Party or with the country at large. We are of the clear view that there is no mandate for this Bill to be passed in either the 2010 Conservative Manifesto or the 2010 Coalition Agreement and that it is being pushed through Parliament in a manner which a significant proportion of Conservative Party members find extremely distasteful and contrary to the principles of both the Party and the best traditions of our democracy.”
They go on to urge that ”more time should be afforded to debate an issue of such gravity … and a final decision on the matter should be postponed until after the 2015 general election when the public would have had the chance to vote on a clear manifesto pledge.”
The strength of the Chairmen’s concerns carries particular weight as a barometer of opinion given their proximity to local voters and is reinforced by recent polling data.
A ComRes poll published this weekend reports that 20% of those who voted Conservative in 2010 agree with the statement “I would have considered voting Conservative at the next election but will definitely not if the Coalition Government legalises same-sex marriage”.
Amongst those who voted LibDem in 2010 but wouldn’t do so today (a key target group), those who are ‘less likely to vote Conservative’ as a result of David Cameron’s same-sex marriage plans outnumber those who are ‘more likely to vote Conservative’ by three to one, according to a November 2012 ComRes poll.
In October 2012, a separate ComRes poll found that 71% of Conservative Chairmen sensed that party members in their constituency opposed proposals to legalise same-sex marriage. 71% of Chairmen felt that David Cameron should drop the plans. Just under half (47%) reported that their local association had lost members over the issue and over half (51%) felt that it made the party less attractive to voters.
Speaking ahead of the delivery of the letter, one of the signatories Ed Costelloe, who last month resigned as chairman of Somerton & Frome Conservative Association over the gay marriage proposals, said:
“Many of us feel a huge sense of personal betrayal over these plans. We worked hard locally to convince people to support Conservatives but this was not part of the platform. There was no mention of this in the Manifesto. We don’t know where this has come from or why it has become such a priority given so many other pressing issues.
“We are also shocked by the way in which it being it is being pushed through with so little regard for proper scrutiny. The Government seems intent on restricting debate at every stage both in the public consultation and now in the Parliamentary process.
“There is huge public concern at the local level and we are seeing people leave the Party. It is certainly not a vote winner.”