Tory big guns in last-ditch plea to stop gay marriage revolt

Gay marriage

Osborne, May and Hague send letter in favour of same sex unions as MPs prepare to vote

LAST UPDATED AT 09:53 ON Tue 5 Feb 2013

IN A LAST-DITCH attempt to prevent the issue of gay marriage from splitting the Tory party, three senior Conservative cabinet ministers have explained why they are in favour of same sex unions ahead of tonight's free vote in the Commons.

Chancellor George Osborne, Home Secretary Theresa May and Foreign Secretary William Hague penned an "unprecedented" joint letter to the Daily Telegraph in support of gay marriage, saying a change in the law is “the right thing to do at the right time."

They wrote: "The question now is whether it is any longer acceptable to exclude people from marriage simply because they love someone of the same sex.

"Attitudes towards gay people have changed. A substantial majority of the public now favour allowing same-sex couples to marry, and support has increased rapidly."

According to the Telegraph, while Cameron refuses to speak publicly on the issue, the letter from three of his senior cabinet colleagues makes it clear they are backing his wish to modernise the party.

With MPs free to vote as they wish on the issue, there are concerns that as many as half the 305 Tory MPs will oppose the change. The Times says a "sizeable majority" of back-benchers will vote against the government bill or abstain and Cameron is "resigned" to the outcome. The paper adds: "Such a result would be a blow to his authority when many MPs are already questioning his judgment."

There are also concerns that a rebellion will affect the party's standing with the public. "Grassroots Tories yesterday mounted an eleventh-hour appeal in favour of same-sex union, urging their MPs to broaden the party’s appeal or risk losing out at the ballot box," claimed the Times.

But The Guardian says many Tory MPs are "facing intense pressure in their constituencies to vote against the measure".

The opposition of Conservatives will not prevent the bill from being passed because, as the Guardian reports, "an overwhelming number of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs will line up alongside Cameron loyalists to vote for it". · 

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