News from Conservative Grassroots
18 May 2013
A group of Conservative Chairmen will today deliver the following letter to 10 Downing Street:
Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing to you as past and present local constituency officers who have worked hard for the Conservative Party over many years. We write to you because your proposal to redefine marriage is flawed, un-conservative, divisive and costing us dearly in votes and membership.
Some of us wrote to you on 2nd February before the House of Commons debate and vote on the Second Reading, and received a short formal reply from your Correspondence Officer dated 8th February and a more detailed one about government policy from the Government Equalities Office dated 8th March.
We wish urgently to raise six points with you that you have so far failed to answer:
1. Breaking promises made to the British people.
Same-sex marriage was not in our manifesto and further, when asked about this issue on May 4th 2010, you told the Sky News political editor Adam Boulton that you were ‘not planning to rename Civil Partnerships as Civil Marriage’. Additionally you have failed thus far to keep the manifesto promise you made to recognise and incentivise marriage through a tax break for married couples.
2. Intellectually flawed and lacking integrity.
You are right when you say that ‘The principles of long-term commitment and responsibility which underpin marriage bind society together and make it stronger’. But you are wrong when you then omit to say that the main purpose of long-term commitment and responsibility is to provide a framework within which children can be jointly conceived and parented. While customs associated with marriage have changed over the years, marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman has remained absolutely constant. Your definition of marriage undermines the traditional and historic connection between marriage and children. Lady Butler-Sloss, former President of the Family Division, said recently that ‘I think it is the destruction of the word marriage which has been understood for many years to mean what the Christians say it does. It would not only affect Christians but it would also affect Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and all the other religions. All the major religions have seen marriage as being based on the pro-creation of children’. Once the inherent connection between marriage and the joint procreation of children is removed because same-sex marriage cannot jointly produce children, the clear danger is that the state inevitably will have to take over the roles and responsibilities of parents for children. It has never been Conservative Party policy to increase the power of the state in this way.
3. A political distraction
You and your colleagues have invested and wasted a huge amount of party political capital in the issue – an issue that even Stonewall was not campaigning for until a couple of years ago. It has distracted the party leadership from helping and supporting families, strengthening parenting and protecting vulnerable children.
4. Treating the membership with contempt
You have failed to listen and respond in an appropriate manner to the concerns of loyal grassroots members. Some of us attended a very large non-political pro-marriage rally in your own constituency on 30th April and were very embarrassed on behalf of the party when your Witney Conservative office refused to receive or even open the door to the pro-marriage petition signed predominantly by your own Witney residents and voters, especially when your officers had been notified in advance of the time when the petition was to be delivered: they were presumably acting under instruction. This utter contempt for ordinary people has led to a mass exodus of members and mass loss of supporters. Neither of the letters of 8th February and 5th March referred to above addressed the detailed points made in our previous letter delivered to you in 10 Downing Street on Feb 3rd. While there is still time we want to advise you of the serious electoral consequences - borne out by the recent local election results - in continuing with the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. Your refusal to listen to reason and grassroots opinion is causing many previously loyal Conservatives to leave the party; some are lost forever and many will not contemplate re-joining unless the Bill is abandoned or the party leadership changed. Some of course are joining UKIP. In addition you have undermined the results of years of work we have been patiently doing with black and minority ethnic groups many who cannot comprehend how a Conservative prime minister can be promoting a Bill that will redefine marriage in a way which is contrary to their religious and cultural beliefs and practices. Expansion of party membership from faith communities has come to a halt.
5. Serious attack on freedom of conscience
The Bill is an assault on freedom of speech and the primacy of conscience. Following legal advice from Aidan O’Neill QC and from John Bowers QC and also recent court cases, it is clear that the Bill will not provide any protection for teachers and other public servants or for religious groups who, in conscience, cannot accept the validity of same-sex marriage.
6. The Bill could cost us the election
The Bill is dividing and weakening the Conservative Party both in Parliament and in the country. The result of the vote on the second reading proves that it cannot be regarded as Conservative Party policy and ComRes, who successfully predicted the results of the recent local election including the UKIP surge, has said that the same-sex marriage Bill could cost our party more than 1.3 million votes.
Therefore Prime Minister, for the sake of the wellbeing of the country and the integrity and future success of the party we urge you not to continue with your policy of re-defining marriage.
- Robert Woollard, chairman of Conservative Grassroots and former chairman of Wycombe Conservative Association
- Geoffrey Vero, president of Surrey Heath CA
- Carol Davies, chairman of Wells CA
- Councillor Paul Bell, chairman of Wellingborough CA
- Felicity Smith, chairman of Salisbury CA
- Councillor Penny Brown, former chairman of Salisbury CA
- Peter Atchison, chairman of Corby and East Northants CA
- Eileen Kemp, president of Corby and East Northants CA
- Councillor Cliff Jordan, former chairman of Mid-Norfolk CA
- Councillor David Frome, chairman of Somerton & Frome CA
- Ed Costelloe, former chairman of Somerton & Frome CA
- Councillor Rob Harvey, former chairman of Birmingham Hall Green CA
- Guy Hordern, former chairman of Birmingham Ladywood CA
- Jean Rose, president of Bognor Regis & Littlehampton CA
- Barry Ansell, chairman of Thornbury & Yate CA
- James Hollingsworth, chairman of Derbyshire Dales CA
- Councillor Christine Smith, former chairman of Dewsbury CA
- Councillor Matt Ewart, chairman of Staffordshire South CA
- Janet MacDonald, chairman of Scarborough & Whitby CA
- Hilton Brown, chairman of Rayleigh & Wickford CA
- Councillor Robert Oxborough, chairman of Torridge & West Devon CA
- Councillor Delyth Miles, chairman of Clacton CA
- Councillor John Rochelle, chairman of Aldridge Brownhills CA
- Jackie Glover, former chairman of Southport CA
- John Cobb, former president of Wealden CA
- Councillor John Rogers, chairman of Mid-Norfolk CA
- David Hedderwick, chairman of Taunton CA
- Anita Heappey, chairman of North Somerset CA
- Peter Steveney, chairman of Thirsk & Malton CA
- Councillor Ashvin Patel, chairman of Bognor Regis & Littlehampton CA
- Gladys MacRae, chairman of North Wiltshire CA
- Robert Barton, vice-president of West Oxfordshire (Witney) CA
- Cicely Maunder, former chairman of Chipping Norton branch, West Oxfordshire (Witney) CA
- Sir Christopher Wates, former patron of Bexhill & Battle CA