11:20 Monday 4th February 2013
Andy Harper Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[A]NDY HARPER: Now I know that we have talked about this before, but we are now on the eve of this debate in Parliament. The Times leads with “Tory gay marriage rebels are told you are out of touch.” Do you think you are out of touch with the general public and your constituents?
STEWART JACKSON: Absolutely not. I’ve had about 350 letters and emails about this issue, over 300 have expressed a very strong opposition to the proposals and the legislation, including some very high up officials in the Anglican Church living in my constituency, and about less than 20 in favour. And my view is that if the legislation is of such great importance, then why wasn’t it in our manifesto, and why isn’t it in our forthcoming manifesto for the 2015 election. Not one Conservative Member of Parliament was elected on a mandate to disregard traditional marriage and force a hierarchy of equalities, whereby equal marriage campaigners are saying your religious tolerance is less important than my right to get married to a same-sex person. And I think that’s absolutely the wrong attitude. It’s unnecessary. There’s no mandate. And it will cause endless legal problems in our society.
ANDY HARPER: So, given that it wasn’t in the manifesto, and that no MP mentioned it at all when they were seeking reelection, why do you think the Prime Minister has gone ahead with what appears to be a very divisive move. As I mentioned (to?) Conservative activist, party chairman, wrote in yesterday’s Telegraph, they went with a deputation to Downing Street, it could split the Conservative Party in two, particularly at the grass roots level. Why then do you think he’s gone ahead?
STEWART JACKSON: Well it’s already split the Conservative Party, because I think tomorrow you’re going to see in Parliament probably upwards of 150 to 180 Conservative MPs who will refuse to vote for this legislation. I think he’s gone ahead with it .. some people are charitable and say he actually does believe in it, he believes in marriage. I have to say that talking to Ministers, they’ve got a very vacuous and facile approach. Oh, well you know, it’s just progress. You guys are going to be out of date, and you’re going to be backwards looking. This is a really fundamental issue. If you read the Bill, it’s about changing the accepted wisdom of what traditional marriage is, and I make the point again that you will have people like Stonewall engineer situations where you’re going to have Catholic teaching assistants accused of hate crime. You’re going to have public servants who are told that what they’re doing is illegal because they don’t believe that two men or two women should marry. Civil partnerships give equality to gay people. From 2005 they have all the legal and financial rights that different sex couples have. And therefore this is forcing through proposals on which there is no electoral mandate. I’m just incredibly disappointed that we’ve reached this stage.
ANDY HARPER: Is your objection based on religious grounds? A lot of people, obviously, who have confirmed religious beliefs in whichever faith they have, are against it. But the point is being made Stewart that so few people actually go to church these days, what difference does it make if people have a religious objection to it?
STEWART JACKSON: Well this government has no right to tell me that my long held traditional theological beliefs can be just thrown away in the dustbin on the basis that’s the zeitgeist, let’s all be trendy and have same sex marriage. It doesn’t work like that. Let’s just have a look at one example about adultery. According to the Bill, adultery doesn’t happen or can’t happen with same-sex couples. And then we get into issues around, has the marriage been consummated. And we also look at issues like changing the words “husband” and “wife”. It’s a very very slippery slope. It’s the thin end of the wedge I believe to endless litigation between different groups. Civil partnerships would, I think, have probably evolved into de facto marriage, over a period of time, by just tweaking some of the differences. I probably would have voted for civil partnerships. I am greatly worried, The number one worry I have, no Minister has ever been able to allay my fears that the European Union Court of Human Rights will interfere and make someone’s religious, theological views effectively illegal, in favour of so-called equality. And until the Minister can give me that complete guarantee, in confidence, then I cannot support this legislation tomorrow.
ANDY HARPER: You told us that your post bag has been hugely in favour of the stand that you are taking. On the other hand, and it’s not scientific, but our reporter was in Peterborough today and I suppose it would be fifty fifty or thereabouts. Do you not risk, you and your fellow MPs, risk the charge that once again the Conservative Party is a nasty party, and it reflects the views of just a certain minority of the country? Are you worried about the effect on the Party?
STEWART JACKSON: Well I happen to believe in democracy, and I think if you want to enact huge sweeping legislation which will affect the social mores and structures of our society for years and years to come, you should put it in a manifesto. And my message to those people who don’t like the way I vote is don’t vote for me frankly. We have a democracy. I’m not an automaton. I’m not a robot that’s just on a game show. I am someone elected to make my own decisions, to use my own experience and knowledge in the way I see fit. If people don’t like it they don’t have to vote for me. But what people don’t like is some of my colleagues who for political advancement and careerist reasons are supporting the Prime Minister, even though they know in their hearts that it’s wrong. People know with me, what you see is what you get. I won’t be voting for it, because I do not want to betray thousands of, particularly Christian people who do a good job in their community, and feel very very worried about this legislation being used to push Christian people out of the public space. And I just do not want to see groups, different groups in society, fighting each other, because the only people that will be happy are the lawyers, and that can’t be right.
ANDY HARPER: And what next? Because looking at the figures, Labour and Liberal Democrats Members are likely to vote with the Government on this issue, so it’s likely to win the vote tomorrow. Where do you and your fellow Conservatives, and it has to be said a sprinkling of MPs representing other parties, where do you go next with this?
STEWART JACKSON: This is an important issue you made at the end there, that the Democratic Unionists are almost wholly against it. There will be a few Liberal Democrats. And I think there’ll (be) probably 30 or 40 Labour MPs who will vote against, or abstain. I think obviously we don’t quite know how it will happen. I would say that one of the most regrettable things is that the Government says this is fantastic legislation, it’s forward looking, it’s progressive. It wants to hide it away. It doesn’t want to have the details of the Bill looked at on the floor of the House. It wants it to be hidden away on the Committee corridor and got out of the way quickly and without proper Parliamentary scrutiny, which I think is deplotable. I think we should have a proper debate. If it’s such a good Bill, let the whole nation see the debate, and let Parliament be the showcase. But it will go to the Lords, and I suspect it will have a very very rough passage.
ANDY HARPER: And will it do lasting damage to David Cameron as Prime Minister?
STEWART JACKSON: When David Cameron’s political obituary is written, whenever that comes, whether it’s sooner or later, the words “gay marriage” will be on that obituary.