The sensational news from the same-sex marriage debate is that the PM David Cameron was not sitting on the front bench as the debate began and will not speak during the debate to defend his policy. Apparently he’s got time to give a TV interview on gay marriage, but not give time to listen to his backbenchers. Cameron’s actions show his total contempt for parliamentary democracy.
The Daily Telegraph reports :
Sometimes the most revealing comments are those that remain unspoken. In 2011, David Cameron boldly announced to the Tory conference that he would legalise same-sex marriage “because I am a Conservative”, saying all relationships deserved support.
Today, he is nowhere to be seen or heard on the issue. At no point, as the row over gay marriage reached its height in recent days, has Mr Cameron said anything in public about why he supports the reforms. The Bill, which is being debated in the Commons for the first time today, was not discussed at Cabinet. Even the Prime Minister’s official spokesman would not repeat the reasons why the government believes this reform is necessary.
Mr Cameron will not be on the front bench for the start of the debate and may well not attend at all. He has a “very active day” of meetings and appointments, Downing Street said. But he will vote, we are told.
So why the silence? Either Mr Cameron has got cold feet and no longer believes in the Bill (in which case, stay tuned for the most sensational U-turn of recent years), or he is desperate to dodge what has become a PR disaster for his party.
His bold promise at the Conservative conference in Manchester was seen as a potent sign of his determination to show how far the Tory party had changed. As the anger and division have grown ever since, it seems to have had exactly the opposite effect.
David Hughes has written the following comment on his Daily Telegraph blog:
‘Given the way that the gay marriage row has split the Tories from stem to stern, you’d have expected David Cameron – whose personal crusade this is – to turn up in the Commons for the debate. Not a bit of it. There was no sign of the Prime Minister on the Treasury Bench for the opening speeches today. And what about the holders of the three great offices of state – George Osborne, Theresa May and William Hague – who this morning took the trouble to write to this newspaper proclaiming their support for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, declaring it to be “the right thing to do at the right time”? Nope, no sign of them either.
Why the reticence? There was a time when such a contentious and symbolic piece of legislation would have commanded not only a full Commons Chamber (it’s half empty at the moment) but also a strong turnout of Cabinet heavyweights. Yet when Maria Miller made her opening speech the only other Cabinet ministers I could spot were Andrew Lansley, the Leader of the House (who has to be there) and Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary.
This is the stage of the parliamentary procedure when the real substance of the measure is debated for the first time and the nature of any opposition to the bill is properly aired. This is when Ministers can listen and learn and prepare appropriate amendments if they deem them necessary. But no, the Prime Minister seems to be of the view that the House can like it or lump it. Should we be surprised at such cavalier behaviour? Hardly. This is a measure that was in neither the Tory manifesto nor the Coalition Agreement. If the PM places such little store on the political conventions that normally govern such an important piece of social legislation, he’s unlikely to be much bothered about observing the parliamentary niceties. Anyway, a spot of lunch with Joe Biden is always going to be more diverting than sitting round listening to the views of his backbenchers.
Protect the Pope comment: David Cameron has personally pushed gay marriage onto the political agenda of his government without a electoral mandate, without a green or white paper, without a real consultation, and now he abandons the debate in the House of Commons chamber and will not speak in defence of his legislation. Who’s sorry now? Or if David Hughes is right, and Cameron is expressing contempt for his backbenchers, whose going to be sorry later?