December 8 2013 Latest news:
Friday, February 8, 2013
ONE of the most senior Conservatives on Suffolk County Council has said he will not vote for his MP again after this week’s vote on equal marriage.
Cabinet member Guy McGregor said he could not support Dr Dan Poulter again after the junior health minister joined the prime minister and most other members of the government to vote for the legalisation of gay marriage.
Mr McGregor, who is a member of the Diocesan Synod and a church warden near his home at Hoxne in north Suffolk, said he could not support the change because he saw it as an attack on the traditional family.
He said he had made his position clear to the MP.
He said: “I will not support him or vote for him again. He knows this and knows why I have taken this decision.
“I have always made this position clear and I tried to have a debate on this at the constituency AGM last year, but it was ruled out of order by the association president.”
Mr McGregor said he accepted that the government now recognised civil partnerships – but could not accept the concept of gay marriage.
Many other grassroot Conservatives shared his view, he added.
Dr Poulter said he had become aware of Mr McGregor’s views on gay rights during a conversation at a social event last year.
He had had a number of letters from constituents on the subject of equal marriage both before and after the vote, they were split more or less equally.
“Among Conservative supporters, a slight majority of the letters I have had have been in favour of allowing gay marriages,” he said.
Dr Poulter said he respected the views of those who disagreed with his support for gay marriages.
“One of my closest friends in parliament is (Waveney MP) Peter Aldous, and he voted against the bill. We respect each other’s opinion. It was a free vote and we could vote according to our conscience.”
He had also had two letters from vicars who wanted to be able to carry out marriage ceremonies for gay couples in church.
He said: “I have always made it clear I see this as a question of equality, and if the vote was to happen again tomorrow I would vote the same way.”
One of the clergy who wrote to Dr Poulter was Whitton rector Rev Andrew Dotchin, who said: “There are gay couples who take an active role in the church. Why can they not enjoy the sacrament of marriage there as well?”
Dr Poulter also has the backing of his local Conservative association.
Constituency chairman Christopher Hudson, who is also a county councillor, said: “Our local MP retains the full backing of the Central Suffolk and North Ipswich Conservative Association.”
Mr Hudson said that many people in the association, particularly in the rural part of the constituency, shared Mr McGregor’s opposition to the equal marriage bill.
However he wished that Mr McGregor had spoken to him first before expressing his concern in such terms.
The issue had been ruled out of order at the association’s AGM, but had been discussed at a Conservative forum later – a meeting that Mr McGregor had been unable to attend.
Mr McGregor had been re-selected as a candidate for May’s county council elections and would remain a party candidate unless he decided to resign.