Statement by Edward Leigh on Same-sex Marriage & Civil Partnerships

I am astonished and disappointed that a Conservative Government, albeit a coalition one, has announced it is consulting on whether to do away with traditional marriage which has always been between a man and a woman.

The British are a tolerant people and it is right that homosexual people should be allowed to get on with their lives. But this does not extend to mangling the language of marriage so that, for the sake of the tiny number of gay people who prefer marriage to civil partnership, everyone else in society must have the definition of their own marriage altered forever.

Once we have departed from the universally understood framework of marriage, there is no logical reason why the new alternative institution should be limited to two people. Why not three? Or thirty-three?

Same-sex couples already have all the rights of marriage in the form of civil partnership. Why must they also have the language of marriage? No doubt because it is an important symbol to them. But it is also an important symbol to many other people. Must the religious and cultural heritage of the whole nation be overturned to suit the demands of a minority even of the gay community itself?

We should also be concerned about liberty. This is all part of a process whereby debate and honest language is manipulated and suppressed by a kind of Newspeak. In recent years people who say things gay rights groups do not like have often found themselves being reported to the police. If the government presses ahead and replaces marriage with a unisex institution, what is the future for those who say they do not believe a man can have a husband or a woman a wife?

This would not be the action of a government whose primary function is to protect our traditional freedoms and values. A recognizably Conservative Government would not do this.

On the separate issue of legalising the registration of civil partnerships in churches, this is being promoted as defending religious freedom. In fact, this is an attack on the bedrock of society: marriage and religion.

When Civil Partnerships were brought in we were assured that they were not marriage. This pledge has now been broken. A marriage is a union between a man and a woman making a sincere attempt to stay together for life with a view to raising children. Civil Partnerships, by definition, cannot be this. The whole point of banning Civil Partnerships in a place of worship was to make clear that they were not marriages. This distinction will now be lost.

Why is this an attack upon religion? Because sooner rather than later a Minister of Religion will be sued for refusing to conduct a gay marriage in Church. Even if our own courts stand firm, we can place little faith in the European Court of Human Rights. It will be argued, with some justification, that it is irrational and confusing for some churches to permit this and others not.

The Government seems to have lost the point of the Pope’s visit in September. He was arguing, and I agree, that religious people do not seek to impose their views on others. But they must be allowed their own space.

The Government has to recognize that this is a steam train on a collision course with the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. Same sex couples already have all the legal advantages of marriage and can have a blessing in those churches which want to do them without any change in the law.

Thought for the day. June 29th. The common ground is where the party needs to position itself. By Peter Bone MP

While the musical chairs on the Titanic are in full swing, the Government ship appears to be sinking. By the time Prime Minister Brown has finished his reshuffle, the Government is going to look weaker than before. It would seem his appointments have more to do with back-room deals than what is in the interest of the Country.

By the way, do you remember Brown’s promise to strengthen Parliament? So what is one of his first actions as Premier? To replace Jack Straw who was regarded as an excellent Leader of the House of Commons and was trying to strengthen the powers of Parliament against the Executive with Harriet Harman.

  

parliament-t.jpg

Strengthening parliament …

    

harriet-harman.jpg

 with Harriet Harman?

 Now Ms Harman now known as ‘Three-Hats-Harman’ has to split her time between the highly partisan jobs of being Labour Party Chairman and Deputy Leader and that of being a strong and independent representative of the interests of the House of Commons. These are irreconcilable and show Brown’s total contempt for Parliament.

Everybody seems to be repeating the mantra ‘we must be on the centre ground otherwise we’re doomed’, so I thought I’d better look it up in the dictionary but there is no dictionary entry for centre ground. It is one of those phrases that has no meaning or substance.

maggie-t.jpg

Thatcher – The Common Ground

Margaret Thatcher had it right when she said the Conservative Party must occupy the common ground. This is what the Conservative Party needs to strive for. The common ground is what most people beleive on any particular issue. It doesn’t matter whether its on the left or right of the political agenda.

Now the dictionary will tell you that common ground is a set of shared beliefs and interest; a foundation for mutual understanding.

So the fight against global warming which might be on the left of the political spectrum is on the common ground because most people support it. Similarly, pulling power back from the European Union and re-establishing sovereignty is on the right but is clearly on the common ground because a large proportion of the British people believe in it.

eu.jpg Re-establishing British sovereignty – a common aim of the British people

Using this barometer I thought it might be interesting to list where the Party should be if it is to capture the common ground. I suggest the common ground requires:

A strong stance against uncontrolled immigration

A very tough line against criminals

Support for our brave men and women of the armed forces

Freedom for our doctors and nurses to use their own clinical judgement

Education that drives up standards rather than levels down

Support for local democracy rather than state control

Lower taxation both locally and centrally

A smaller state with more personal responsibility

The common ground should be the cornerstone of Conservative policy. Listening to the People and delivering what they want.

Peter Bone MP

Peter Bone is MP for Wellingborough

Thought for the day – May 14th

As his idea for evening and weekend opening of GPs’ surgeries shows, Gordon Brown is now setting out his stall for the premiership. It is time for Conservatives to react with some policy initiatives of our own.

Brown’s style is obviously different from Blair’s, but in the most important respect, his substance is much the same. He shares with Blair the guiding principle that the state – using ever more of tax-payers’ earnings – is the best machine for delivering almost anything that government wants.

hoodies.jpgYet in spite of that, as Frank Field points out in a report published today by think-tank Reform, his New Deal for youth employment – cost so far nearly £2bn – has been a ‘woeful failure’ (see today’s Telegraph, p 4), with the number of people aged 18-24 out of work up by 70,000 to 505,000 since it was launched in 1998. Numbers of young people “not in employment , education or training” are also up on 1998, and climbing – now 131,000 above the figure when Labour came to power ten years ago. As Field says, many of the people who got a job through the New Deal would have found a job in any case. Not everyone needs the nanny state to hold their hand.

As Field comments “The results show that even if the money was available, which it isn’t, more of the same won’t work and will be a betrayal of young unemployed people.”

No wonder Brown has already attacked Cornerstone for our tax reduction proposals.

We shall continue to be a thorn in his side. P.S The first of the Cornerstone policy papers submitted to David Cameron’s policy review will appear on this site on Wednesday. We will start with Brian Binley’s excellent paper on how to create an “Enterprise Britain” for the 21st Century.

edward-leigh.jpg

Edward Leigh is Co-Chairman of The Cornerstone Group