We record below some of the campaigns we have been involved in and related documentation.
Conscience Clauses for Same-Sex Marriage legislation
Immigration and Border Controls
Kill HS 2
Election of Party Chairman by Party Membership
Same Sex Couples Bill
See how your MP voted on the Same-Sex Couples Act at Second and Third Readings...
CAMPAIGN 6 BRITISH VALUES PAPER
Grassroots conservatives have released a discussion paper on British values, following the Birmingham trojan horse extremism affair, and a new Ofsted inspection regime. ‘A major cultural divide has emerged between vocal secular liberals and the silent, and somewhat intimidated, majority,’ says the Grassroots movement. ‘People are now afraid to even express deeply held beliefs which were mainstream just a number of years ago. A national debate on British values is long overdue and it is our hope that this paper will both encourage and contribute to such a debate.’
‘Build on the past for the benefit of the future’ urges the paper, and traces the development of British values over our nation’s history. These are the real British values, it claims, not those imposed by governments, citing the equalities agenda as artificial and counter-productive. It is not up to politicians to create values but they do need to nurture respect for existing values.
“Freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, tolerance and peaceful dissent are true British values, alongside respect for the rule of law and politeness. They are our best defence against extremism of any kind,” says Gc’s Geoffrey Vero.
“Our British sense of humour, the ability to laugh at ourselves, is key to true tolerance and serves as an antidote to those who seek to impose their particular agenda.”
The need for shared beliefs which underpin a nation’s values is a key theme of the paper, which concludes that ‘British values are indisputable deeply rooted in our history and our Judaeo-Christian heritage’.
‘Values belong to the whole nation,’ says Mr Vero. ‘Let’s have a national debate’.
The full paper can be downloaded here: grassroots_british_values_march.pdf (0.3Mb)
CAMPAIGN 5 CONSCIENCE CLAUSES FOR SAME-SEX MARRIAGE LEGISLATION
CAMPAIGN 4 IMMIGRATION AND BORDER CONTROLS
Letter to the Prime Minister 27 December 2013
Dear Prime Minister
I am writing to you as the Chairman of Conservative Grassroots - backed by Local Associiation Chairmen and other senior activists - to ask you as a matter of economic necessity to back the amendment to the Immigration Bill, as tabled by the Hon Nigel Mills MP, to extend restrictions on the expected wave of mass immigration from Bulgaria and Romania when border controls are lifted on 1 January 2014.
Until the proposed amendment is passed into law we urge you – as a stop-gap – to exercise the opt-out on immigration matters granted under the Lisbon Treaty and unilaterally extend the border restrictions on Bulgaria and Romania – to prevent a hugely disruptive and destabilising wave of mass immigration from both those countries.
Conservative Grassroots is not opposed to immigration. We welcome immigration as approved by Parliament which is in the national interest and set on the basis of need – where skills are required – but not mass immigration as forced upon us by Brussels.
The Immigration Minster, the Hon. Mike Harper MP, on behalf of the Government’s current perplexing position, has said that the United Kingdom cannot further extend the moratorium and as such the UK is obliged to lift the border restrictions imposed by the last Labour government in 2007 on 1 January 2014.
We respectfully disagree with the Government’s premise that there is no scope or room to extend further the moratorium on further immigration from Bulgaria and Romania. We can argue that by opting out of Schengen we didn’t quite fully sign-up to principle of unrestricted ‘free movement of peoples’.
A ‘safeguard clause’ written into the Accession Treaty for Bulgaria and Romania allows for the re-imposition of temporary restrictive measures in any Member State if it is “undergoing or foresees serious labour market disturbances”.
In 2011 Spain invoked the ‘safeguards clause’ and unilaterally imposed restrictions barring entry of further Romanian workers citing ‘exceptional circumstances’ – given its high youth unemployment rates. The European Commission was forced to concede and accept this temporary ban on any further entry by Romanians workers into Spain.
The provisional 7-year transitional arrangements restricting entry into the UK for Bulgarian and Romanian residents were agreed when European Union economies were booming in 2005. Since then most European Union economies have been ravaged by one of the severest recessions since the 1930s and it is only right that the previously agreed time frames be amended to take into account prevailing circumstances and realities.
Long-term UK youth unemployment – at 21% – is the third highest within EU & OECD countries. As such it is only logical for the UK – invoking the Spanish example of ‘exceptional circumstances’ – to unilaterally exercise its opt-out on immigration matters under the Lisbon Treaty and extend the original restrictions to 2018 to allow the UK economy the space and time to reverse the long-term high youth unemployment trend.
You must be aware that this is an untenable political position given the widespread opposition of the British people – from all walks of life including ethnic minorities. It is also an unsustainable economic position in view of the huge pressure already placed on public services at a time when the country is still facing acute challenges within the economy.
The Chancellor and you are well aware that as a country we are still emerging from the worst recession since the 1930s with stagnant wages and a rising cost of living.
We face many unresolved challenges in housing, health, social provision and the job market. We have an unacceptably high 7.4 per cent unemployment rate with one million young people under-24 and 400,000 working adults over 50 are facing long-term unemployment of 24 months or more.
This is further compounded by the Government’s austerity measures which aim to reduce the size of government headcount by one-third at a time when a sizeable number of immigrants are expected to take up residency and further strain our public services and infrastructure – from schools, housing to hospitals and health care provision – with no added financial support to local authorities.
How are local authorities going to be able to support unrestricted new immigrant individuals and entire families without additional financial support or increased local taxation? The fiscal position is simply untenable, irrational and grossly unfair – and may lead to social unrest.
We urge you to back extended border controls because of the exceptional economic circumstances and to encourage the rest of your Government - including the Liberal Democrats - to back Nigel Mills' amendment. Either Lib-Dems are committed to help Britons get back to work or they are not.
In the face of these acute and long-term economic and social challenges we simply cannot afford to absorb this expected wave of mass immigration from Bulgaria and Romania where income levels are more than 9 times lower than the UK.
We are calling on you, as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party:
i. to Support the amendment to the Immigration Bill as proposed by Nigel Mills MP before 1 January 2014 and
ii to Exercise the opt-out clause on justice, home affairs and immigration granted to UK and Ireland under the Lisbon Treaty and
iii to Unilaterally invoke exceptional circumstances under the Treaty of Accession by Bulgaria and Romania to the EU, as Spain had done, and defer any such entry as envisaged under the safeguard provisions in relation to serious labour market conditions on the basis of high long-term youth unemployment.
As a matter of urgency we urge you to call a special sitting of Parliament and bring forward a vote on Nigel Mills MP’s proposed amendment to the Immigration Bill at the soonest – as time is now of the essence – so that the border controls can be extended before 1st January 2014.
Chairman Conservative Grassroots
30 January 2014
Dear Prime Minister
We wrote to you on 27 December 2013 urging you to adopt Nigel Mills MP’s amendment to extend restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian immigration on the basis of exceptional economic circumstances based on our continuing very high rate of long term youth unemployment and the acute long-term unemployment crisis faced by the over 50s.
The Daily Telegraph reported that both Bulgaria and Romania are “offering passports to people in non-EU countries” including Moldova, Macedonia, Serbia, Ukraine and Turkey. If correct this would enable citizens from these countries to work and settle anywhere in the EU including the UK. This is an outrageous abuse of accession privileges. The European Commission seem s silently complicit in the light of these potential abuses.
With respect the Chancellor and yourself and most noted economists and policymakers are very aware that the untenably high rates of long term unemployment of 24 months or above for the young and over 50s are deep-rooted structural issues which require a long period of active initiatives and management.
The acute long-term jobless crisis for our young people will have a significant and debilitating impact on their life chances. It has the serious potential of resulting in many of them not acquiring the necessary work ethics and skills that would take them into their young adult lives and their settled relationships. Long term unemployment has the disastrous consequence of perpetuating the vicious cycle of welfare dependency. The older they get without essential job skills and an established work ethic – the harder it will become for them to find settled, self-affirming and fulfilling longer-term jobs which gives them a sense of belonging, hope and promise in the country of their birth. How can this be a good outcome for the United Kingdom or for that matter any country within the EU?
In response to our previous letter to you urging you to forestall the prospect of further uncontrolled immigration which is of wider concern and impact on our people Grant Shapps MP Conservative Party Chairman pleaded rather incredulously that no further initiatives were possible. Yet your Government found energy, initiative and time in its legislative agenda to enact legislation on a range of issues not contained in either of the parties manifestos..
a. Why did your Government not exercise the opt-out clause for immigration matters under the Lisbon Treaty (re-stated as Title V of Part III of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which extended the protocols on the Schengen acquis, Border Controls and Immigration, asylum and civil law legislation under the Treaty of Amsterdam), granted to UK and Ireland to defer the imminent Bulgarian and Romanian immigration?
Your Government always continued to have an opt out on immigration matters under the consolidating Lisbon Treaty yet failed and/or refused to invoke it and present a cohesive argument to the EU Commission for the rightful exercise of such an opt out. We have said that we understood that a permanent ban would have not survived a European Court legal challenge but a temporary extension could not be found to have violated EU law.
Why did your Government not exercise the opt out clause on immigration matters under the Lisbon Treaty when even the European Commission President is on record saying that Bulgaria and Romania is not yet ready to join the full Schengen Area thereby deferring the so-call unfettered free movement of people?;
b. Why did your Government not take head-on with the European Commission to amend the Lisbon Treaty to limit the ‘free movement of peoples’ within Europe and also link any such right to an existing offer of employment before any EU resident can move to a member state and also remove any right for permanent settlement – as residency should be a matter of national sovereignty and determination?;
c. Your Government knew that in 2011 Spain , citing exceptional circumstances , invoked a safeguards clause under the Treaty of Accession by Bulgaria and Romania to bar temporary entry to further Romanian workers – in keeping with EU rules:
i. Why has the Government kept an absolute silence on the clause with respect to ‘exceptional circumstances’ that existed under the Treaty of Accession of Bulgaria and Romania in the run up to the date for the lifting of restrictions? And’
ii. Why did the Government not seek to extend the moratorium then in place against any more uncontrolled mass scale immigration from new member states in the context of a wider discussion about the whole principle of unconditional free movement of peoples in the three and a half years it has been in office when it had an array of options available to it? and;
iii. Switzerland under separate arrangement with the EU under the European Economic Area has full access to the single market without the full obligations of free movement of peoples. With that liberty it re-imposed ‘temporary restrictions’ on any further Bulgarian and Romanian immigration in July 2013.
Why did the Government not demand a re-negotiation of a new framework of terms for EU-wide immigration and settlement when it had the opportunity to do so when the European budgets came up for approval and make ‘free movement’ conditional upon an available job while removing the right to permanent settlement?
The scale of uncontrolled continuous mass immigration is not helping and does not create the space Britain needs to begin to get a grip on the inter-related causes of long-term youth unemployment.
We are not against immigration. We welcome immigration – on the basis of need – where skills are required and immigrants make it a priority to have a good command of the English language to maximise their job opportunities and life chances and are willing to integrate and embrace British values and adapt to our way of life, rule of law and culture of freedom, fair play, hard work, compassion, simple justice and mutual respect.
We generally agree with the observation of Douglas Murray in the Spectator (July 2012) that ‘migration itself can be a good thing. But mass immigration (in the numbers it has happened in recent years in Britain and many other Western countries) is a bad thing. It strains our welfare systems, encourages people to ghetto-ise rather than assimilate and creates not so much a multi-racial society as a country made up of different mono-cultural centres. It causes a breakdown in trust both between and among communities, and erodes the possibility of any collective history or common culture.’
Our immigration policies, system and integration approach, as has been candidly admitted, is not fit for purpose and need to be redesigned, rebalanced and rebuilt on the basis of a national needs-based framework. It is no longer possible to tinker with a broken and failing system on the edges.
Continuous uncontrolled mass immigration will never give us the space and time needed to make a determined and thoughtful effort to fix a hopelessly broken system and build mutual trust. We stand for an immigration policy which affirms mainstream British cultural integrity and strength. That is the only way possible to help us foster a more cohesive and inclusive society.
We call for a tightly selective and annually-limited value-added, skills based and wealth-creation immigration system – like the well-regarded and very tight Australian needs and points based immigration system – together with Swiss-type ‘safeguard clauses’ based on our national need and interests.
We are again calling on you as Prime Minister to:
i. Urgently support the amendment to the Immigration Bill as proposed by Nigel Mills MP and we believe this is still tenable by invoking the opt out clause on immigration matters as granted to the UK and Ireland under the Lisbon Treaty and defer any further entry of new immigrants on a mass scale without the offer of an existing job prior to any move to the UK and;
ii. As the UK is outside the Schengen Agreement and Area we urge you to exercise the opt-out clause on justice, home affairs and immigration granted to UK and Ireland under the Lisbon Treaty – and put an end to further uncontrolled immigration.
The Prime Minister responded on Tuesday 11 February 2014
Thank you for your recent letters on the subject of immigration. I completely share your concern to keep immigration under control, something the last Labour Government failed to do. Net migration more than quadrupled under their watch: it totalled over 2.2 million people - more than twice the population of Birmingham between 1997 and 2010.
As you know, we have a target to bring immigration down to an annual figure in the tens of thousands. We have already cut the figure by nearly a third and are determined to make further progress towards our target. Last year there were nearly 100,000 fewer people immigrating into the UK than in 2010, and migration from outside the EU now stands at its lowest level since 1998.
The Immigration Bill currently before Parliament will make further important changes towards this end. It will make it more difficult for people to live in the UK unlawfully; ensure that immigrants make a fair contribution to our key public services; and make it easier to remove people who have no right to be in this country. It will cut down drastically the grounds for foreign national prisoners to appeal against deportation and require that, unless there is risk of serious irreversible harm, they should make any appeals against deportation after they have left the country. In addition we will make it far more difficult for illegal immigrants to obtain bank accounts, driving licences or housing and, separately, we are putting up very substantially maximum penalties for breaches of the National Minimum Wage. These are all changes Conservatives can take great pride in.
You raise two questions about European policy. First is the question of action by the Spanish Government to reintroduce controls on Romanian and Bulgarian access to their labour markets. This was only done within the framework of the Accession Treaties concerned. One of the first acts of this Government was to extend the transitional controls on Romania and Bulgaria to the full seven years allowed. Since 1 January 2014, every Member State, including Spain, has had to lift labour market access controls on Romania and Bulgaria.
Second, you ask about opt-outs from Justice and Home Affairs measures. The UK Government has already opted out of over 130 measures. We will only seek to opt back into those measures where we believe it is in the national interest to do so - for instance relating to police co-operation through Europol, and tackling international crimes such as child pornography and football hooliganism. There is no power at all to opt out of the law relating to the freedom of movement directive.
We have acted within existing powers to stop benefit tourism from EU countries. No one will be able to claim out-of-work benefits, including housing benefit, for at least three months after arrival. Anyone seeking benefits after that will have to show after six months that not only are they genuinely seeking work but also that they have a realistic chance of getting a job, which will include testing knowledge of the English language. We will also act to remove beggars and rough sleepers who will not be allowed back into the UK for at least 12 months, ending the so-called revolving door problem once and for all.
For the future I have made it clear that we will negotiate to end labour market abuses as part of the general renegotiations with the EU. We will also insist that access to our labour markets from future Member States will only be possible on the basis of some acceptable measure of harmonisation with European living standards. The result of these negotiations will be put to the British people in a referendum on our future membership of the European Union by 2017.
Thank you for writing to me on this important subject and for all that you do to support our Party. I never forget that we rely on the hard work and commitment of Party members for political success now and in the future, and remain grateful for all you continue to do for us.
CAMPAIGN 3 KILL HS2
September 1 2013
Conservative Grassroots, representing dozens of Tory association chairmen, believes the proposed high-speed train link between London and the North is a “hugely expensive white elephant” that will result in the “destruction of the countryside”.
The group was set up to muster opposition to the Coalition’s introduction of same-sex marriage, but has said it will now focus its efforts on halting the rail scheme.
The announcement comes at a time when scepticism towards HS2 is building among Tory backbenchers.
Opposition has grown significantly since ministers admitted two months ago that the project’s cost had risen from £30billion to £43billion. The Treasury now suspects that the true bill for HS2 may be as much as £73billion when inflation and VAT are taken into account.
CAMPAIGN 2 Campaign for membership to elect the Party Chairman
Grassroots Conservatives issued the following Press Release on August 13 2013
The PM must allow the membership of the Conservative Party to elect the Conservative Party Chairman and do more to rebuild the party machine, says Conservative Grassroots.
The group which represents ordinary members warns that if the dramatic fall in party membership is not reversed, there will be no one left to deliver leaflets, knock on doors, or raise money to support election campaigns.
The intervention, from Conservative Grassroots, comes after Party membership is believed to have collapsed to just 100,000, the lowest level since the Second World War.
Robert Woollard, Conservative Grassroots Chairman, said: “Whatever the polls say, to secure a majority in the 2015 general election (alongside a modern internet based media campaign) the Conservative Party must re-establish its local grassroots support. Otherwise the numbers will not be there on the ground to do what needs to be done.
“We have worked hard over many elections and want to see the Party win again in the future. But dwindling numbers means the chances of mobilising the activists to secure such a victory are diminishing.
“A General cannot win a war without experienced troops on the ground.”
Mr Woollard’s comments follow this week’s Sunday Times’ report that up to half of local Tory activists in some seats held by high profile cabinet ministers have abandoned the party since the last election.
Reasons include: disillusionment with the Coalition, alienation over a weak European policy, gay marriage, HS2, and uncontrolled fracking.
And some reports say many former Party members have switched to UKIP, whose membership has risen to 40,000.
The group praises the work of election guru Lynton Crosby, who is credited with the recent improvement in the polling figures, but they say there is no sign of a revival at grassroots level.
Ed Costelloe, former chairman of the Somerton and Frome Conservative Association said: “Heads of the voluntary party at national and regional level must do more to represent the views of the grassroots rather than being absorbed by the Prime Minister’s circle.”
Mr Woollard continued: “Mr Cameron must take decisive action if the current situation is to be reversed and this must include allowing members a real say in electing a new Party Chairman. And he must take action against any party official, or parliamentarian who thinks it is fine to insult ordinary members by calling them ‘mad swiveled eyed loons’.
“Mr Cameron must invest more resources into rebuilding local associations around the country and stop promoting unpopular policies such as same-sex marriage, HS2, uncontrolled fracking and on shore wind farms, if he wants to re-engage with ordinary people and party members. He also should take immediate action to honour the manifesto commitment to give married couples a realistic tax break in order to help to strengthen the family and stop penalising stay-at-home mothers.”
On the European Union Mr James Joshua, a member of the management group and of the Aylesbury Conservative Association said: “Members are very disappointed that the terms of the in/out question of the Referendum on the European Community will not be known before 2017. Why does it take four years to spell out the benefits of staying or leaving? The argument appears very one-sided at the moment.”
The Conservative Party continues to refuse to publish up to date figures of its membership, despite calls from prominent figures such as Lord Ashcroft and Tim Montgomerie.
Conservative membership has been falling consistently for decades. When David Cameron became leader in 2005, it was 258,000, down from a 3 million peak in the 1950s.
A House of Commons briefing at the end of last year estimated 2011 numbers at 130,000-170,000, but some MPs believe it is now 100,000 at most. The same briefing said that Labour had 193,000 members in 2011.
Mr Woollard hoped that the Prime Minister would not be taking advantage of the decline in membership to justify overriding the views of party members in framing policy.
CAMPAIGN 1 The Same-Sex Couples Bill
Letter delivered to the Prime Minister on the Same Sex Couples Bill, signed by over 20 senior local Conservatives, presented at 10 Downing Street on Sunday February 3 2013 and reported on national news.
Dear Prime Minister,
We write to you as a body of long serving activists and volunteers of the Conservative Party with deep concern about the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, to be considered by Parliament on 5 February 2013.
You will be aware of the level of controversy and division of opinion that surrounds these proposals in the country at large. However, we write specifically of our concerns about the growing discord within the Conservative Party over this issue.
We feel very strongly that the decision to bring this Bill before Parliament has been made without adequate debate or consultation with either the membership of the Conservative Party or with the country at large. We are of the clear view that there is no mandate for this Bill to be passed in either the 2010 Conservative Manifesto or the 2010 Coalition Agreement and that it is being pushed through Parliament in a manner which a significant proportion of Conservative Party members find extremely distasteful and contrary to the principles of both the Party and the best traditions of our democracy.
The decision to redefine the institution of marriage, without proper consultation and consideration of all consequences, intended and unintended, comes across as questionable and impatient. Moreover, to do so now, when the economy remains in an extremely perilous state, when the future of Britain’s position within the European Union and the integrity of our own Union is in question and when the Party trails 10% behind Labour in the latest polls, is a policy that a very significant number of Conservatives cannot support.
A ComRes poll published this weekend reports that 20% of those who voted Conservative in 2010 agree with the statement “I would have considered voting Conservative at the next election but will definitely not if the Coalition Government legalises same-sex marriage”.
In October 2012 ComRes found that 71% of Conservative Association Chairmen sensed that party members in their constituency opposed proposals to legalise same-sex marriage, just under half (47%) reported that their local association had lost members over the issue and over half (51%) felt that it made the party less attractive to voters. Then in November, the polling company discovered that amongst those who had voted Liberal Democrat in 2010 but wouldn’t do so today (a key target group), those who were ‘less likely to vote Conservative’ as a result of these plans outnumber those ‘more likely to vote Conservative’, three to one.
According to another ComRes poll in February 2012, 70% of British adults agreed that ‘marriage should continue to be defined as a life-long exclusive commitment between a man and a woman.’
To dismiss these strongly held views as those of an extremist minority, or a minority at all, would be wrong, as would the assumption that this is an issue which will swiftly be forgotten and abandoned by those who have made their feelings clear. We feel it would also be wrong to assume that the passage of time will remove opposition to same sex marriage and the advocacy of traditional conservatism. The largest faith groups, the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and Islam ,are strongly opposed to same sex marriage in common with most practiced faiths in Britain. Equally, we are sure you will agree that the Conservative Party needs to do much more to attract ethnic minority voters to the Conservative cause. It is predicted that by 2030, 25% of voters will be of ethnic minority background, most of whom oppose same sex marriage.
The status quo reached in legislative terms over gay rights is now fair and equitable. We are, however, concerned that further attempts to legislate on issues relating to homosexual rights represents a skewed assessment of those who are in most need in our country and that, if passed, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will serve neither to enhance homosexual rights further, nor improve the electoral position of the Conservative Party. We are of the opinion that there are a number of alternative compromise solutions including the extension of Civil Partnerships to all citizens, which would prevent the state from infringing on the institution of marriage or dictating to churches who were not adequately consulted.
Long-held religious and personal freedoms and the right to free speech will be adversely affected by the passing of this Bill. You will be aware of the recent judgment by the European Court of Human Rights that failed to secure ‘religious freedom’ protection to an Islington civil registrar who lost her job after seeking a conscientious exemption from presiding over civil partnership ceremonies for homosexual couples and a marriage counsellor who was dismissed after expressing a possible conscientious objection to providing same-sex sexual therapy. Because of these past precedents and the power of the ECHR to overrule British courts on matters relating to religious freedom and human rights, we do not feel the proposed “quadruple lock” in the Bill will protect the perceived rights of one minority will not simply be used to overrule the rights of the majority and impinge on values considered sacrosanct to our Party and country.
More time should be afforded to debate an issue of such gravity at Parliamentary Committee level, among the membership of the Conservative Party and with the country at large, and a final decision on the matter should be postponed until after the 2015 general election when the public would have had the chance to vote on a clear manifesto pledge.
As long-standing members of the Conservative Party we want to support the Party to victory, as we have done in every past election, in the belief that Conservative values will lead our nation to ever greater prosperity. Resignations from the Party are beginning to multiply and we fear that, if enacted, this Bill will lead to significant damage to the Conservative Party in the run up to the 2015 election.
A further letter was delivered to 10 Downing Street on Sunday May 19 2013 from a group of Conservative Association Chairmen
Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing to you as past and present local constituency officers who have worked hard for the Conservative Party over many years. We write to you because your proposal to redefine marriage is flawed, un-conservative, divisive and costing us dearly in votes and membership.
Some of us wrote to you on 2nd February before the House of Commons debate and vote on the Second Reading, and received a short formal reply from your Correspondence Officer dated 8th February and a more detailed one about government policy from the Government Equalities Office dated 8th March.
We wish urgently to raise six points with you that you have so far failed to answer:
1. Breaking promises made to the British people.
Same-sex marriage was not in our manifesto and further, when asked about this issue on May 4th 2010, you told the Sky News political editor Adam Boulton that you were ‘not planning to rename Civil Partnerships as Civil Marriage’. Additionally you have failed thus far to keep the manifesto promise you made to recognise and incentivise marriage through a tax break for married couples.
2. Intellectually flawed and lacking integrity.
You are right when you say that ‘The principles of long-term commitment and responsibility which underpin marriage bind society together and make it stronger’. But you are wrong when you then omit to say that the main purpose of long-term commitment and responsibility is to provide a framework within which children can be jointly conceived and parented. While customs associated with marriage have changed over the years, marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman has remained absolutely constant. Your definition of marriage undermines the traditional and historic connection between marriage and children. Lady Butler-Sloss, former President of the Family Division, said recently that ‘I think it is the destruction of the word marriage which has been understood for many years to mean what the Christians say it does. It would not only affect Christians but it would also affect Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and all the other religions. All the major religions have seen marriage as being based on the pro-creation of children’. Once the inherent connection between marriage and the joint procreation of children is removed because same-sex marriage cannot jointly produce children, the clear danger is that the state inevitably will have to take over the roles and responsibilities of parents for children. It has never been Conservative Party policy to increase the power of the state in this way.
3. A political distraction
You and your colleagues have invested and wasted a huge amount of party political capital in the issue – an issue that even Stonewall was not campaigning for until a couple of years ago. It has distracted the party leadership from helping and supporting families, strengthening parenting and protecting vulnerable children.
4. Treating the membership with contempt
You have failed to listen and respond in an appropriate manner to the concerns of loyal grassroots members. Some of us attended a very large non-political pro-marriage rally in your own constituency on 30th April and were very embarrassed on behalf of the party when your Witney Conservative office refused to receive or even open the door to the pro-marriage petition signed predominantly by your own Witney residents and voters, especially when your officers had been notified in advance of the time when the petition was to be delivered: they were presumably acting under instruction. This utter contempt for ordinary people has led to a mass exodus of members and mass loss of supporters. Neither of the letters of 8th February and 5th March referred to above addressed the detailed points made in our previous letter delivered to you in 10 Downing Street on Feb 3rd. While there is still time we want to advise you of the serious electoral consequences - borne out by the recent local election results - in continuing with the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. Your refusal to listen to reason and grassroots opinion is causing many previously loyal Conservatives to leave the party; some are lost forever and many will not contemplate re-joining unless the Bill is abandoned or the party leadership changed. Some of course are joining UKIP. In addition you have undermined the results of years of work we have been patiently doing with black and minority ethnic groups many who cannot comprehend how a Conservative prime minister can be promoting a Bill that will redefine marriage in a way which is contrary to their religious and cultural beliefs and practices. Expansion of party membership from faith communities has come to a halt.
5. Serious attack on freedom of conscience
The Bill is an assault on freedom of speech and the primacy of conscience. Following legal advice from Aidan O’Neill QC and from John Bowers QC and also recent court cases, it is clear that the Bill will not provide any protection for teachers and other public servants or for religious groups who, in conscience, cannot accept the validity of same-sex marriage.
6. The Bill could cost us the election
The Bill is dividing and weakening the Conservative Party both in Parliament and in the country. The result of the vote on the second reading proves that it cannot be regarded as Conservative Party policy and ComRes, who successfully predicted the results of the recent local election including the UKIP surge, has said that the same-sex marriage Bill could cost our party more than 1.3 million votes.
Therefore Prime Minister, for the sake of the wellbeing of the country and the integrity and future success of the party we urge you not to continue with your policy of re-defining marriage.
- Robert Woollard, chairman of Conservative Grassroots and former chairman of Wycombe Conservative Association
- Geoffrey Vero, president of Surrey Heath CA
- Carol Davies, chairman of Wells CA
- Councillor Paul Bell, chairman of Wellingborough CA
- Felicity Smith, chairman of Salisbury CA
- Councillor Penny Brown, former chairman of Salisbury CA
- Peter Atchison, chairman of Corby and East Northants CA
- Eileen Kemp, president of Corby and East Northants CA
- Councillor Cliff Jordan, former chairman of Mid-Norfolk CA
- Councillor David Frome, chairman of Somerton & Frome CA
- Ed Costelloe, former chairman of Somerton & Frome CA
- Councillor Rob Harvey, former chairman of Birmingham Hall Green CA
- Guy Hordern, former chairman of Birmingham Ladywood CA
- Jean Rose, president of Bognor Regis & Littlehampton CA
- Barry Ansell, chairman of Thornbury & Yate CA
- James Hollingsworth, chairman of Derbyshire Dales CA
- Councillor Christine Smith, former chairman of Dewsbury CA
- Councillor Matt Ewart, chairman of Staffordshire South CA
- Janet MacDonald, chairman of Scarborough & Whitby CA
- Hilton Brown, chairman of Rayleigh & Wickford CA
- Councillor Robert Oxborough, chairman of Torridge & West Devon CA
- Councillor Delyth Miles, chairman of Clacton CA
- Councillor John Rochelle, chairman of Aldridge Brownhills CA
- Jackie Glover, former chairman of Southport CA
- John Cobb, former president of Wealden CA
- Councillor John Rogers, chairman of Mid-Norfolk CA
- David Hedderwick, chairman of Taunton CA
- Anita Heappey, chairman of North Somerset CA
- Peter Steveney, chairman of Thirsk & Malton CA
- Councillor Ashvin Patel, chairman of Bognor Regis & Littlehampton CA
- Gladys MacRae, chairman of North Wiltshire CA
- Robert Barton, vice-president of West Oxfordshire (Witney) CA
- Cicely Maunder, former chairman of Chipping Norton branch, West Oxfordshire (Witney) CA
- Sir Christopher Wates, former patron of Bexhill & Battle CA
A further letter was sent in response to the Prime Minister’s reply on May 31
Dear Prime Minister,
On behalf of over thirty co-signatories I acknowledge receipt of your letter of 21st May in reply to ours of 19th May 2013.
To be clear, we are committed to and share your concern to see an outright majority for the Conservative Party in 2015. However, what is also clear to us from both the polling evidence and our own experience on the ground is that this Bill is having a very negative effect on both Party morale and electoral appeal. It is alienating much of our core support whilst failing to attract new voters. This is deeply concerning with under two years before the general election and certain polling already indicates how additionally challenging 2015 will be as a direct result of the Bill.
It is therefore disappointing that although you state that you have read our letter with great care your reply does not address any of the six points which we raised. You merely repeat the mantra that “from what the evidence tells us, the vast majority of public opinion agrees”. We have pointed out to you previously that we do not believe that there is any solid evidence to support this claim. I enclose polling data which shows just how divided both the Country and the Party are.
Conservatives have always been at the forefront of innovation, development and growth but success has always hinged on the wisdom of recognising the enduring value of the fundamental institutions of society, marriage and family being chief amongst them.
You repeat the mantra that you “firmly believe that enabling same–sex couples to get married will strengthen – not weaken – family ties, helping to ensure that marriage remains an essential building block of our society”.
In fact, all the evidence we have seen from countries which have introduced this legislation over the last ten years shows categorically that marriage (which is far more than just commitment) is further devalued in the eyes of all and the tie between marriage and the upbringing of children (which is in fact the essential building block of our society) is seriously weakened.
Arguments of convenience, which lack intellectual rigour, invariably unravel and result in unintended consequences.
You also state that since this is a “conscience issue” you would never put pressure on Parliamentary colleagues to vote against their conscience. The farce of having to do a “shabby deal with Labour” to get this through the Commons, reports of coercion, and the fact that many MPs and Ministers would not risk voting against it (in spite of their serious concerns), combined with the Government’s voting down of EVERY proposed conscience amendment (e.g. protection for teachers and registrars) does not sound at all like “a free vote on a matter of conscience” and is inconsistent with Conservative principles. All very totalitarian and rather unBritish.
I will not reiterate our many concerns from our previous two letters. But your many long serving and experienced Party members – who yes, have had the responsibility of bringing up children - believe that the family lies at the absolute heart and core of Conservative values. All the evidence from other countries proves without a shadow of doubt that this legislation will yet further diminish the tie between marriage and children, to the detriment of future generations. The golden inheritance of every previous generation, that has been lovingly handed down to us, is now being smashed by you on the anvil of so-called “equality and fairness”. Is this the “new intolerance”?
We sincerely hope that the Lords will take a more objective view of this misguided legislation, transcend party politics, uphold our constitutional processes, defend our freedoms – and reject the Bill.
Conservative Grassroots Management Committee