Former Lib Dem MP Evan Harris refutes Ben Summerskill’s claim of ‘cynical’ support of equal marriage

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Former Liberal Democrat MP, Evan Harris, has launched back at Ben Summerskill for accusing him of political opportunism over equal marriage, saying he outright misquoted him to support his own politically partisan agenda.

Earlier today, it was reported that Mr Summerskill said he was convinced the Lib Dems supported same-sex marriage in a “cynical and opportunistic way” because of a comment made by former Lib Dem MP Evan Harris who allegedly said: “This is great because we put clear blue water between us and the Tories.”

Writing to PinkNews, Harris has denied he ever made the alleged comments, saying: “If I said that I would have said ‘it puts clear pink water between us and the Tories’, and it would not have been all that I said.

“There is nothing wrong with saying that anyway (unless it was the only thing I said or believed and no one else was saying anything else) because the nature of politics means you have to put pressure on the Tories on this issue to get anywhere.”

He referred to the full quotation he had provided to the Guardian where he actually said the motion “would ‘test’ the Conservatives’ commitment to equality.”

He added: “It is a very poor of Ben to invent a quote and claim it is all that was said.

“Ben was always annoyed by my criticism of Labour 1997-2010 for its slowness on all the issues,” including “age of consent, armed forces, civil partnerships, and sexual offences.

“As you know, Clegg backed gay marriage in Feb 2010 and the Scottish LD Conference in March 2010 – long before the coalition.”

Answering questions from PinkNews readers in February 2010, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said: “Yes, I support gay marriage. Love is the same, straight or gay, so the civil institution should be the same, too. All couples should be able to make that commitment to one another.”

Harris also turned criticism onto Stonewall, saying “my experience was that they would defend the Labour Government rather than promote faster equality.

“I have no doubt that Stonewall’s position was motivated by not allowing anyone but Labour to get any credit for anything.”

Mr Summerskill resigned as the CEO of Stonewall earlier this year.He was among the guests on Ed Miliband’s table at a fundraiser for the Labour Party on Wednesday evening and is a former Labour councillor.