David Cameron tells grass roots Tories to stop complaining. But I do complain, and will continue to complain, that the Government’s policies are departing from the promises made in the Conservative Manifesto to support families and marriage.
I am a grass roots Tory. My membership of the Party spans nearly 50 years, including over 18 years as a Member of the European Parliament. Throughout my career, I have followed the dictum that “when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change” and believe that we live not just for our own generation but also for those that have gone before and those who will come after us.
Yet, despite the fact that neither Conservative, Liberal Democrat nor Coalition Manifestos made mention of proposals to redefine traditional marriage by legislating to establish to right to same sex marriage, the Government has chosen to give this legislation their full and urgent support. I must make clear that I support civil unions or partnerships having equal rights to traditional marriage as to legal status, taxation and inheritance rights, but cannot agree that being equal must mean being the same. They are not the same, for marriage is about a man and a woman joined in matrimony for the procreation of children. However, the current system works well to the benefit of both homosexual and heterosexual couples. It ain’t broke so why spend valuable parliamentary time trying to fix it; time that is much needed to deal with the economic and social problems we inherited from the previous government.
This Government has ignored the views of over 600,000 people who signed a petition calling for the current definition of marriage to be retained. The radical change in social policy which legislation for same sex marriage would bring about requires careful consideration and must be debated thoroughly before the decision to legislate to redefine marriage is taken. Before parliament is called upon to enact legislation for same sex marriage, it is my view that the issues should be discussed by a Royal Commission or, at the very least, parliamentary green and white papers should be provided to brief MPs on the full implications of the proposed legislation. To date, the only Government information available is contained in an announcement made at the Party Conference!
In the Conservative Election Manifesto, David Cameron pledged to make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe and stressed his belief that strong families are the bedrock of a strong society. He promised to support families in the tax and benefit system but the Government’s first efforts to reform child benefit have resulted in widespread anger. The Treasury has introduced a system which ignores the joint family earnings of couples and instead concentrates the benefit cut on a single parent’s earnings. This is patently unfair. It appears that the Treasury claims they need more time to gather this joint family income information so one can only remind them that if you “act in haste then you will repent at leisure”.
I am in favour of reforming the benefits system but it should not discriminate against the traditional family. We were promised positive recognition of families through the tax and benefit system with the introduction of transferable allowances. It may well happen but I sincerely hope that it is not handled in the same ham-fisted way as the child benefit reform.
I welcomed the 2010 Conservative Election Manifesto as an honest programme which would provide fairness and opportunity for our society. Its claims to support marriage and the family gave me reason to believe that we had re-established our core political values. Regrettably after two years of Coalition Government, it appears that the Conservative Party is now following a fashionable liberal political agenda that confuses the electorate as to who or what we represent. I am a disillusioned grass roots Conservative and I will continue to complain!