Tories threaten to quit over bill

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WIGAN Tories are considering resigning over the gay marriage row.

The borough’s Conservative Federation chief confirmed today that he has received letters from angry party members warning that they will quit the party should the Prime Minister’s controversial bill be approved by Parliamentary free vote later today.

And former Wigan mayor Michael Winstanley insists the move isn’t widely supported in this “socially conservative” area.

Mr Winstanley said that Wigan Conservative Federation hadn’t been approached by the anti-gay marriage party members to join their plea for David Cameron to “think again”.

But if they had been he was sure that the majority of party members across the borough would have backed opposition to it. He believes that, on this issue, his own party leader is “out of touch” with large areas of the country, particularly in the North West.

But Mr Winstanley said: “I would certainly have signed it if I had been approached and so I believe would a lot of other Conservative members. I am opposed to the bill because I just don’t think it is the role of government to actually redefine what marriage is. The MPs who may vote in favour of it today leave me wondering just where they think that they got their mandate from.

“Locally in the last genereal election it was in any manifesto from any of the parties and, as far as I am concerned, it didn’t come up in any of the hustings debates at all.

“The General Election is another two years off and there is a good way to go until then but I know this a real issue because when I was candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner I was getting emails from members telling me that they wouldn’t be voting for me and were considering resigning from the party altogether.”

But Makerfield’s Labour MP Yvonne Fovargue said: “Couples who want to make a loving long-term commitment should be able to get married, whatever their gender or sexuality.”

Ms Fovargue said: “I supported the introduction of civil partnerships by the then Labour Government in 2004 in the face of considerable opposition. Now they have widespread support and this is the right time to allow same sex couples equal recognition by the state through marriage.

“This bill provides strong protection for freedom of religion, including safeguards so that no church, faith group or individual minister can be required to conduct a same sex marriage.”