Corby by-election set to provide acid test of Conservative’s backing of gay marriage

George Osborne has backed gay marriage
George Osborne has backed gay marriage
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VOTERS in Corby are being asked to use the by-election in the constituency as a referendum on government plans to allow gay marriage.

In what is already a difficult by-election on Thursday for Prime Minister David Cameron following the resignation of the former Tory MP for Corby Louise Mensch,

Labour are expected to easily win the marginal seat from the Tories but party leaders are looking to the majority over whether it can be put down to more than mid-term blues.

Conservative insiders privately fear that support could go to UKIP or Tories may stay at home because of the gay marriage proposal.

Coalition for Marriage have dropped 46,000 leaflets through voters’ doors arguing against the government’s stance.

But the leaflet drop by the Coalition for Marriage comes as Chancellor George Osborne has come out strongly in favour of gay marriage.

This is despite constituency chairmen warning Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne that they are losing members over the issue.

Mr Osborne, who is in charge of Conservative preparations for the 2015 general election, today warned that polls indicate a “clear majority” in favour of the change, particularly among the young and women.

In an analysis of Barack Obama’s victory in last week’s US presidential election, Mr Osborne said that Mitt Romney’s prospects were undermined by the sense that the Republicans were out of step with modern America on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

And he invoked Margaret Thatcher in saying that successful political parties must reflect modern life and the way that people want to live their lives.

The Chancellor said: “I should declare my personal position on these social issues: I wouldn’t change the current abortion laws and I strongly support gay marriage on principle.

“Of course in Britain these issues are ones of individual conscience and free votes, but I am proud to be part of a Government that will introduce a Bill to allow gay marriage.

“It is worth reflecting that in Britain, as in America, a clear majority of the public support gay marriage, and an even bigger majority of women support it. That majority support is just as high in the North as it is the South, and it is equally high among all socio-economic groups.”

He added: “Successful political parties reflect the modern societies they aspire to lead. As Margaret Thatcher said in the first sentence of her introduction to the 1979 Conservative Election manifesto: ‘The heart of politics is not political theory, it is people and how they want to live their lives’.”

But Colin Hart, Campaign Director of C4M, said: “Yet again the government’s spin doctors are trying to claim that redefining marriage is a vote winner. Quite the opposite is true. In the US, voters in 31 states have backed traditional marriage at the ballot box, often by large margins and as recently as May 2012 in North Carolina.

“The four results by the narrowest of margins in liberal states last week are not representative of US public opinion.”

And Mr Hart highlighted a major poll by ComRes that found that redefining marriage could cost the Tories up to 30 parliamentary seats and 1.1 million votes.

He said: “The polls actually show that a majority of voters do not support the redefinition of marriage. And worryingly for Mr Cameron this includes a majority of those who elected him in his own constituency of Witney.

“Even amongst the gay community the policy is not popular with less than one in five (19 per cent) believing the PM is proposing this change for the right reasons. So the Prime Minister and the Chancellor must stop misleading the public.”