George Osborne: I will vote in support of equal marriage

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Chancellor George Osborne has reiterated his support for the government’s policy on equal marriage as the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham gets underway.

He said it was the Conservative way to believe in “commitment”,  the Telegraph reports.

Appearing on Sky News’ Murnaghan show, Mr Osborne said:

“I am a supporter of it, I will be voting for it when it comes to the House of Commons, but it will be a free vote issue – in other words every MP will vote according to their conscience – and I will vote according to my conscience in favour of gay marriage.” 

Prime Minister David Cameron has previously said that legislation to allow gay couples equal marriage rights would be introduced before the next general election in 2015.

The chancellor’s intervention is likely to anger the opponents of the measure – who have used the Sunday papers to promote their campaign.

All three main political parties support the plans and in recent weeks the focus has been on whether religious organisations, who want to provide same-sex weddings, will also be allowed to do so.  

According to the Independent on Sunday, C4M, the group opposed to marriage equality, has once again commissioned ComRes to poll Conservative Party activists on the issue.

C4M claims 71% of Tory constituency chairman think the policy should be abandoned whilst 47% believe David Cameron’s support for the move has cost them members.

Colin Hart, campaign director of the campaign group, said: “What this latest poll reflects is the growing unease amongst grassroot Conservatives about the way the PM is trying to force through this policy without any electoral mandate and without any acknowledgment of the profound consequences this chance will have.”

Mr Hart added: “If the PM continues to press ahead with this deeply unpopular, radical and profoundly undemocratic proposal, then he can expect to pay the price for this at the ballot box”.

ComRes surveyed 100 Conservative Party constituency chairmen between 14 September and 2 October.

However, in August, Lord Ashcroft, one of the Conservative Party’s most influential and respected supporters and a former deputy chairman, said on the ConservativeHome website that dropping equal marriage could damage the party’s electoral fortunes.

“In political terms, ditching gay marriage would probably be more likely to put off joiners and considerers – whom we need if we are to win a majority – than it would to win back defectors”.

The opponents of equal marriage are seeking to use this week’s Conservative Party Conference as a spring board, and on Monday, C4M plan to hold a rally at Birmingham City Hall.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, is due to make an address.

A draft speech, seen by the Mail on Sunday, claims that Lord Carey will say that introducing equal marriage could have “unintended consequences”.

And that: “Once we move from the solid ground of marriage earthed in that time-honoured relationship of a man and woman, in a loving relationship open to procreation, we can be sure the result will not strengthen the life of society and will not greatly help the life chances of our children”.

At last year’s Conservative Party Conference David Cameron memorably urged Tory delegates to unite around equal marriage in his keynote speech by saying:

“I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.”