David Cameron is facing renewed pressure over allowing gay marriage as a Tory grassroots group warned he was alienating the party and a former Cabinet Minister questioned his focus.
In a letter to the Sunday Telegraph, the Conservative Grassroots group expressed a “deep concern” about “the negative effect of the gay marriage Bill on both Conservative Party morale and electoral appeal.”
The letter called on peers to reject the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which arrives in the Lords today for the start of what is expected to be a stormy passage through the upper chamber.
It survived a Commons backlash when 130 Tory backbenchers opposed the move.
In the letter, Robert Woollard, chairman of Conservative Grassroots, wrote: “It (allowing gay marriage) is alienating much of our core support while failing to attract new voters with under two years to go before the general election.”
He went on: “Long-serving party members – many of whom have had the responsibility of bringing up children themselves – believe that the family lies at the heart of Conservative values. The golden inheritance of every previous generation, that has been lovingly handed down to us, is now being smashed on the anvil of ‘equality and fairness’.”
Meanwhile, former Tory Cabinet Minister Lord Mawhinney said the advice the Prime Minister was getting was not “politically astute” and that Mr Cameron himself said before the election that he would not allow gay marriage.
He told Sky News’s Murnaghan programme: “So at a time when the Government should be focusing all its attention on the economy, which is what will decide the next election, and perhaps on education where Michael Gove is doing a great job, we have this distraction following Lords reform distraction, following Alternative Vote distraction.
“This is not a high priority for the people of the country.”