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July 20, 2016

Angela Eagle drops out of UK labour leadership contest

Angela Eagle drops out of UK labour leadership contest

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

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Yesterday, former UK shadow Business Secretary Angela Eagle announced her withdrawal from the Labour Party leadership contest after losing to ex-Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Owen Smith in an informal contest for support of MPs (Members of Parliament) in opposition to current leader Jeremy Corbyn in the contest. She says she will support Smith with all her “enthusiasm and might”.

File photo of Angela Eagle, 2009.
Image: UK government.

Ms. Eagle and Mr. Smith agreed whichever got the least nominations from MPs and MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) would drop out of the leadership race.

This comes after MPs’ criticism of Corbyn’s performance in the recent “Brexit” referendum — which passed despite Labour opposition — displayed in a recent vote of no-confidence in Corbyn’s leadership capability, which received a no-confidence majority of over eighty percent.

Owen Smith supports policies such as reintroducing the 50 percent top tax rate, a £200 billion investment plan, and a referendum on any deal on leaving the EU. He has also criticised Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity message as lacking substance. He said “it is not enough to just be anti-austerity, we need a concrete plan for prosperity”.



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July 13, 2016

Corbyn to be included on leadership election Ballot

Corbyn to be included on leadership election Ballot

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

On Tuesday the Labour party governing body, the NEC, decided that current leader Jeremy Corbyn would be on the ballot paper in the party`s leadership election without him needing the support of 51 MPs and MEPs. Speaking outside the meeting Corbyn said that he was “delighted”. In a separate decision the NEC has stated that all those who joined the party after January 2016 will have to pay £25 in order to vote in the leadership election, and today ex-work and pensions secretary Owen Smith has announced that he is standing for the labour party leadership.

NEC decides that Corbyn is to be included on leadership Ballot[]

The NEC came to a decision yesterday concerning the interpritation of the Labour party rules. “Where there is no vacancy, nominations may be sought by potential challengers”, the contention was over whether Corbyn himself was to be counted as a challenger. Jeremy Corbyn said that he had legal advice saying that he would not need the nominations where as rebel MPs said that they had legal advice to the contrary. The NEC decided by secret ballot that Jeremy was right, voting 18-14 in Corbyn`s favour.

Owen Smith anounces leadership bid[]

Ex-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Owen Smith

Yesterday Owen Smith announced that he is running for the leadership of the Labour party saying that he had “lost faith” in Mr.Corbyn`s ability to lead the party, he says that he can “heal it” and that there are elements from both the left and right wings of the party that want to split the Labour party. He is yet to receive the support of 51 MPs and MEPS that as a challenger he needs to appear on the ballot. He has stated that had he been an mp at the time he would have voted against the Iraq war, unlike leadership rival Angela Eagle who voted in favour and that he supports the renewal of the nuclear submarine program trident, putting himself at odds with incumbent leader Jeremy Corbyn.



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Corbyn to be included on UK Labour leadership election Ballot

Corbyn to be included on UK Labour leadership election ballot

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

On Tuesday, the Labour Party governing body and the National Executive Committee (NEC) decided that current leader Jeremy Corbyn would be included in the party’s leadership election without requiring the support of 51 MPs and MEPs. Speaking outside the meeting, Corbyn said that he was “delighted”. In a separate decision, the NEC has stated that all who joined the party after January 2016 will be required to pay £25 in order to vote in the leadership election. On Wednesday, ex-work and pensions secretary Owen Smith announced his standing for the Labour Party leadership.

NEC decides Corbyn is to be included on leadership Ballot[]

The NEC came to a decision yesterday concerning the interpretation of the Labour party rules. “Where there is no vacancy, nominations may be sought by potential challengers,” the contention was over whether Corbyn himself was to be counted as a challenger. Jeremy Corbyn stated that he had been provided legal advice regarding the nomination requirement whereas rival MPs said they had received legal advice to the contrary. The NEC decided by secret ballot that Jeremy was correct in his statement, voting 18–14 in Corbyn’s favour.

Owen Smith announces leadership bid[]

Ex-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Owen Smith

On Wednesday, Owen Smith announced his campaign for the leadership of the Labour Party saying that he had “lost faith” in Corbyn’s ability as a leader of the party, saying he can “heal it” and that there are elements from both the left and right wings of the party that favor the split of the Labour Party. He has yet to receive the support of 51 MPs and MEPs in order to appear on the ballot. He expressed that had he been an MP at the time he would have voted against the Iraqi war, unlike leadership rival Angela Eagle who voted in favour, and his support the renewal of the nuclear submarine program trident, putting himself at odds with incumbent leader Corbyn.



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July 11, 2016

Theresa May to become UK Prime Minister as opposition begins leadership election

Theresa May to become UK Prime Minister as opposition begins leadership election

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Monday, July 11, 2016

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Today the Conservative Party, the current governing party of the United Kingdom (UK), announced Theresa May would become the new party leader following the decision by her leadership rival Andrea Leadsom to withdraw from the contest. This announcement was made on the same day it was confirmed a leadership contest has been formally triggered within the UK Labour Party, the official opposition, after Angela Eagle gathered the needed support to challenge Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the party.

Theresa May to become leader of the Conservative Party[]

File photo of Theresa May, 2015.
Image: UK Home Office.

Following the withdrawal of Mrs Leadsom from the Conservative Party leadership election, Party official George Brady said he was expecting to appoint Mrs May as the new party leader. Mrs May, the current home secretary, would succeed David Cameron in this role, and it is expected she will also succeed him as Prime Minister.

Mrs Leadsom described a leadership election as “highly undesirable” for the country as she announced her decision to withdraw. She also said she felt she had insufficient support to win a leadership election.

Mr Cameron originally announced his intention to resign following the UK EU referendum, and has now said he intends to offer his resignation following Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Labour Party to hold leadership election[]

The Labour Party confirmed a leadership election had been officially triggered. Mrs Eagle has announced her candidacy, and it is understood she has the level of support from Labour Members of Parliament to add her name to the ballot.

Mrs Eagle was one of many members of Mr Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet to resign following the EU Referendum. She today said Mr Corbyn “is unable to provide the leadership” needed as she launched her leadership bid.

It is unclear if Mr Corbyn’s name will be automatically be added to the ballot as the current incumbent. A decision by the party’s executive committee is reportedly to be made tomorrow to decide on the matter.



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September 10, 2015

Elizabeth surpasses Victoria as longest-serving UK sovereign

Elizabeth surpasses Victoria as longest-serving UK sovereign

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

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Queen Elizabeth on August 10.
Image: Mark Owens/Ministry of Defence.

Yesterday, Elizabeth II officially surpassed her great-great-grandmother Victoria, to become the longest-serving monarch of the United Kingdom.

Victoria was queen for much of the 19th century, with a grand total of 23,226 days, 16 hours, and 23 minutes. However, the precise moment in time when Elizabeth reached her milestone remains a mystery because it isn’t known for certain exactly what time the Queen’s father and predecessor, George VI, passed away.

The milestone was the subject of widespread praise from around the world including Kamalesh Sharma, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations, of which Elizabeth is ceremonial head. British Prime Minister David Cameron said that her reign was “truly humbling” and had been a “golden thread” for British society in the post-war era. He was joined by members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The occasion was also marked in London by a flotilla proceeding down the River Thames. Buckingham Palace unveiled photographs taken by Mary McCartney, daughter of musician Sir Paul, in which the Queen was sitting in the room where she meets the Prime Minister on a weekly basis.

However, the Queen was not present in London because she is currently on holiday in Scotland. She appeared to underplay the significance of the day, only briefly mentioning it whilst attending the opening of a restored railway line in the Scottish Borders region.

Accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, and Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, she met crowds of admirers who had turned out in force to welcome her. The First Minister emphasised the Queen’s “dedication, wisdom and exemplary sense of public service”.



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May 22, 2013

Same-sex marriage passes third reading in House of Commons

Same-sex marriage passes third reading in House of Commons

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Maria Miller: “Let us make equal marriage possible because it’s the right thing to do, and then let us move on.”
Image: Department for Work and Pensions.

The UK House of Commons voted yesterday to approve the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at third reading, with 366 MPs supporting and 161 MPs opposing. The Bill proceeds today to the House of Lords. The legislation continues to draw strong criticism from right wing Conservative MPs and has caused political trouble for Prime Minister David Cameron.

Opponents of the Bill led by Tim Loughton MP submitted an amendment to allow opposite sex couples to enter into civil partnerships, which were introduced in 2004 as an alternative to marriage for same sex couples. The government warned that Loughton’s amendment was an attempt to wreck the passage of the Bill. Sir George Young, the Conservative chief whip, asked Labour whips to oppose the amendment despite the Labour Party previously supporting the amendment.

A Labour Party source quoted in The Guardian said they “had an eleventh hour appeal from the government that they did not have the numbers to defeat the Tim Loughton amendment” and that Labour leader Ed Miliband considered it an “overriding priority […] to ensure that the bill gets on to the statute book. Ed and Yvette Cooper will therefore be voting against the Tim Loughton amendment. We expect a large number of MPs to join Ed and Yvette. Since there was a genuine threat to the bill Ed decided the best thing to do was to act in this way.”

A rival amendment put forward by the Labour Party would bring in a review of whether civil partnerships ought to be extended to opposite sex couples but would not delay the implementation of marriage for same sex couples. This amendment was approved 391 to 57 by the Commons.

Opponents of the Bill including David Burrowes and Peter Bone are hoping the House of Lords will reject the law: Burrowes stated Lords would have the right to reject the bill as “there was no clear manifesto commitment, no coalition agreement, no green paper — just a sham consultation”. The Conservative Party’s 2010 “contract for equalities” reads, “We will also consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage.”

Norman Tebbit in 2008.
Image: James Robertson.

In an interview with The Big Issue, former cabinet minister and Conservative peer Norman Tebbit expressed concern about the possibility that a law legalising gay marriage would cause confusion regarding royal succession: “When we have a queen who is a lesbian and she marries another lady and then decides she would like to have a child and someone donates sperm and she gives birth to a child, is that child heir to the throne?”

Tebbit also argued the new law “would lift my worries about inheritance tax because maybe I’d be allowed to marry my son. Why not? Why shouldn’t a mother marry her daughter? Why shouldn’t two elderly sisters living together marry each other?”

During the debate, Gerald Howarth referred to Conservative MP Margot James as representative of an “aggressive homosexual community”: “I warn you, and MPs on all sides of the house, that I fear that the playing field has not been levelled. I believe that the pendulum is now swinging so far the other way and there are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see this as but a stepping stone to something even further”. Howarth’s comments sparked a trending topic on the social networking site Twitter.

David Cameron has been on the political defensive since rumours circulated that Conservative Party co-chairman Lord Feldman referred to Conservative activists as “mad, swivel-eyed loons”. Conservative Grassroots chairman Miles Windsor remarked, “This week has begun a civil war in conservatism, it may rumble on for years — but as things stand, Nigel Farage is winning it at a stride.”

Maria Miller, the government minister responsible for equality, tweeted after the vote on the third reading: “Just won Third Reading vote of Equal Marriage Bill – After all the hard work, its moment to be proud of. It’s the Right Thing”. Labour MP Diane Abbott said: “I did not think I would live to see the day this reached third reading.”

On BBC Radio 4, David Cameron welcomed the passage of the bill: “I think we should think about it like this — that there will be young boys in schools today who are gay, who are worried about being bullied, who are worried about what society thinks of them, who can see that the highest Parliament in the land has said that their love is worth the same as anybody else’s love and that we believe in equality. I think they will stand that bit taller today and I’m proud of the fact that that has happened.”



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March 27, 2013

David Miliband to resign as MP for job at non-profit

David Miliband to resign as MP for job at non-profit

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

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File photo of David Miliband in 2007.
Image: Shelley and Alan Heckman.

David Miliband, former UK Foreign secretary, announced today he is standing down as an MP to take the job of President and Chief Executive of the International Rescue Committee, a non-profit aid organisation based in New York City. The former Cabinet minister stood for election as leader of the Labour Party, losing out to his brother, Ed Miliband.

In a letter to Alan Donnelly, chair of the South Shields Constituency Labour Party, David Miliband lists the reasons for his stepping back from the limelight of British politics: “After the leadership election, I felt I could be most helpful to the party on the front line, in South Shields and around the country, rather than on the front bench in Parliament. I felt this gave Ed the space and at the same time the support he needed to lead the party without distraction.”

David Miliband expanded the reasons in an interview with the BBC, saying it had been hard “to accept that I can best help the Labour Party by not just giving the space between the front bench and the back bench to Ed, but the space between the front bench and 3,000 miles away”.

Ed Miliband praised his brother, saying British politics would be “a poorer place” without David: “Having spoken to him a lot over the past few months, I know how long and hard he thought about this before deciding to take up the offer. I also know how enthusiastic he is about the potential this job provides.”



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February 7, 2013

Same-sex marriage in the UK passes second reading in Commons

Same-sex marriage in the UK passes second reading in Commons

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Part of the promotional material the government have produced to promote the bill.
Image: Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Legislation to allow same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom has passed the second reading in the House of Commons Tuesday by 400 votes to 175. Amendments to the Bill are now to be discussed and voted in the committee stage and then debated in the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2013, if passed, would allow same-sex couples to get married in both civil ceremonies and religious ceremonies where a particular denomination has agreed to provide such services. The government have said the Bill contains a “quadruple lock”, four separate measures to protect the religious freedom of those who do not agree with same-sex marriages on religious grounds.

Before the debate

The government’s proposals have caused “growing discord” within the Conservative Party according to a letter written by a group of Conservative local constituency chairmen. The letter, which was delivered to Downing Street on Sunday, claimed the policy would cause “significant damage to the Conservative Party in the run-up to the 2015 election” and “resignations from the party are beginning to multiply”.

Sir Peter Bottomley says the legislation is “not going to be a big deal”.
Image: Steve Punter.

The Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley criticised media focus on the letter sent to Downing Street, telling the BBC the importance of the letter was overblown: “There are, say, 630 associations, there’s now two active officers for each one, that’s over 1200. Twenty five past and present officers went to Downing St — 25 out of over 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 — doesn’t strike me as newsworthy.”

Bottomley said he believes the majority of people in Britain are supportive of same-sex marriage although older people tend to be against it, and said the legislation is “not going to be a big deal”.

On Monday, in response to the letter sent to Downing Street, another letter from fifty grassroots activists within the Conservative Party including constituency chairmen and the chairman of Conservative Future, a group for Conservative supporters aged under 30, argued Conservative MPs should support the Bill: “Please do not allow the impression that all Conservative Party activists are opposed to gay marriage. Many of us strongly agree with the proposal. Nor is it true that gay marriage has no mandate. David Cameron made his support for it clear in his first conference speech as party leader, and won loud applause. It was in the party’s equalities manifesto at the last election.”

The letter said opposition to same-sex marriage would “risk alienating the voters we will need in 2015” and argued the plans have broad support from the wider public.

Maria Miller MP: “if a couple love each other, then the state should not stop them getting married unless there is good reason — and being gay is not reason enough”.
Image: Department for Work and Pensions.

In response to criticism from within the Conservative Party, Maria Miller, the government minister responsible for the Bill, wrote an editorial in The Times defending the proposals. Miller wrote: “The proposals for change are straightforward — if a couple love each other, then the state should not stop them getting married unless there is good reason — and being gay is not reason enough.”

Miller defended the bill from accusations it would infringe on religious freedom: “This bill is about choice. It is about giving those who want to get married the opportunity to do so, while protecting the rights of those who don’t agree.”

The Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, Nadine Dorries, confirmed on Monday in a post for the blog ConservativeHome that she plans to vote against the Bill, saying the Bill fails to make heterosexual and gay couples equal because the Bill does not require gay couples “to make any commitment to faithfulness whatsoever in the way straight couples are required to” and because there is no requirement for consummation. She also argued it is politically unwise for the Conservative Party, claiming loss of support “could lose us as many as 100 seats”. Dorries said Labour’s introduction of civil partnerships was “the right thing” but the Labour Party would not have supported same-sex marriage because it would cost them support from Catholics. She argued that if Conservatives push for same-sex marriage to become law, Labour would then not have to take a political hit for passing the Bill.

The Conservative Party activist Tim Montgomerie contradicted claims that the Conservatives would face a drastic drop in support, claiming a YouGov survey shows it won’t affect voter intentions: “the effect might well be negative in the short-term but — AT WORST — it will reduce the Tory vote from about its current 34% to 33%”.

Iain Dale has suggested closeted MPs who vote against the legislation may be ‘outed’ by gay rights campaigners.
Image: Steve Punter.

Conservative blogger and radio host Iain Dale — who is also openly gay — argued on his blog that a number of the opponents in the Tory ranks are themselves in the closet and may face outing attempts by gay rights campaigners. On ITV, Dale said he had looked at a list of MPs who intend to vote against the Bill on the website of Campaign for Equal Marriage: “I note with interest the names of several MPs who most people in the Westminster Village know to be closet gays. And I note also the names of two supposedly straight MPs who I know to be conducting gay affairs at the moment. I don’t believe in ‘outing’ anyone, but because of the rank hypocrisy there will be others who will take a different view.”

Before the debate, Labour leader Ed Miliband said he will vote “proudly” for equal marriage: “I don’t think that the person you love should determine the rights you have. That’s why I’ll be voting for equal marriage, along with the rest of the shadow cabinet.”

Liberal Democrats committed to supporting the policy. A notable exception among the Liberal Democrats is John Pugh MP who said in a letter to his constituents published on Monday he will vote against the Bill because he believes “it achieves none of its objectives and weakens the link between marriage and the family”.

In the run up to the debate, MPs claim to have received emails they characterised as “vitriolic”, “appalling”, and “unpleasant” from both supporters and opponents of the Bill. The Conservative MP Angie Bray said: “You get emails from one side saying you’re morally deficient if you vote no and emails threatening hell fire and brimstone if you vote yes. It has frankly been an ill-tempered debate on both sides.”

Some MPs have said negative emails from opponents have prompted them to support the Bill. An anonymous MP told The Independent: “Quite a few of us who were considering abstaining will vote in favour of gay marriage because of the unreasonable nature of the emails we have been receiving. Some of the emails I’ve had are simply appalling and I’m fed up with it.”

Conservative MP David Burrowes, who opposes the Bill, said unpleasant messages have also come from supporters of the Bill: “I’ve had death threats, hostility and hate mail. My children have even been told that their dad is a homophobe.”

Burrowes made his case against the Bill Tuesday on ConservativeHome: “Marriage has never been just about the happiness and fulfilment of the individuals involved. It is part of a bigger picture — human societies need stable family groupings, especially for the nurture and care of children. The man-woman union at the heart of marriage has to do with this bigger picture.”

Burrowes also argues the marriage Bill will not significantly advance gay rights, pointing instead to his support for an introduction of a new offence of homophobic hatred.

Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin wrote an article defending the legislation for ConservativeHome, arguing “the Bill respects those who feel that same-sex marriage does represent an attack on their view of marriage” and since “nobody is going to be forced to take part in a same-sex marriage who does not wish to do so, I very much hope that in turn they will respect those who feel that the present inequality of marriage is an attack their identity and freedom as individuals.”

The newly elected Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, used his first post-appointment public statement to reaffirm the Church of England’s opposition to the Bill: “I stand, as I have always stood over the last few months, with the statement I made at the announcement of my appointment, which is that I support the Church of England’s position on this. We have made many statements about this and I stick with that.”

The Guardian opinion writer Polly Toynbee argued the fallout within the Conservative Party has failed to show they are “a modernised party” but instead revealed them “as a nest of bigots”, warning that the party disunity threatens the Conservatives’ chances at the next election.

The debate

The Second Reading started just after 12:30pm on Tuesday. Maria Miller introduced the bill: “The depth of feeling, love and commitment between same-sex couples is no different from that depth of feeling between opposite-sex couples. The Bill enables society to recognise that commitment in the same way, too, through marriage. Parliament should value people equally in the law, and enabling same-sex couples to marry removes the current differentiation and distinction.”

Miller argued against the charge that the Bill redefines marriage by pointing to previous reforms of marriage law: “Suggestions that the Bill changes something that has remained unchanged for centuries simply do not recognise the road that marriage has travelled as an institution.”

Miller concluded her introduction of the Bill by appealing to fairness: “Despite all the discussion and debate, this Bill is about one thing — fairness. It is about giving those who want to get married the opportunity to do so, while protecting the rights of those who do not agree with same-sex marriage. Marriage is one of the most important institutions we have; it binds families and society together, and it is a building block that promotes stability. This Bill supports and cultivates marriage, and I commend it to the House.”

Yvette Cooper gave the Opposition response.
Image: Yorkshire Labour Euro team.

The Labour politician Yvette Cooper gave the Opposition response. She welcomed the Bill and argued: “Parliament should not stop people getting married just because they have fallen in love with someone of the same sex, and we should not say that same-sex relationships are intrinsically worth less.”

Regarding the claim that the Bill would eventually force religious groups to perform same-sex ceremonies, Yvette Cooper stated: “It is clear that they will not have to.”

Cooper also argued against a number of objections to the Bill. She said some object that marriage is by definition between a man and a woman, but: “We cannot hide discrimination simply by calling it a definition. Marriage has changed many times over the centuries — and thank goodness for that.”

In response to the argument that marriage is for the purposes of procreation and protection of children, Cooper argued: “Many marriages are childless, and we do not prevent people who are too old or too sick to have children from getting married. We do not do fertility tests at the altar.”

Following the speeches of Miller and Cooper, MPs from all parties spoke both for and against the Bill. Opponents argued their opposition to the bill was not driven by homophobia or bigotry, the Labour MP Robert Flello stating: “the debate has been characterised as bigoted religion on the one hand versus equality on the other.”

Conservative MP Edward Leigh argued marriage exists for children: “Marriage exists to keep the parents exclusively committed to each other, because, on average, that is the best and most stable environment for children. If marriage were solely about the relationship between two people, we would not bother to enshrine it in law, and nor would every culture, society and religion for thousands of years have invested it with so much importance.”

Leigh then suggested proponents were motivated by their own interests rather than the interests of children: “Marriage is not about ‘me, me, me’, nor about legally validating ‘my rights’ and ‘my relationships’; it is about a secure environment for creating and raising children, based on lifelong commitment and exclusivity”.

The Conservative MP Nick Herbert introduced some levity into the debate when he ridiculed the idea that heterosexuals would be threatened by gay and lesbian couples getting married: “Darling, our marriage is over: Sir Elton John has just got engaged to David Furnish”.

David Lammy MP compared the campaign for gay rights to civil rights: “Separate but equal is a fraud. It’s the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus.”

During the debate, a number of gay MPs spoke in support of the bill. Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams noted: “Through my teenage years being openly gay was virtually impossible as it was terrifying in terms of the abuse.”

Crispin Blunt
Image: Ministry of Justice.

Another Conservative MP, Crispin Blunt, spoke of the importance of the bill to him as a gay man: “Semantics matter. Words express the values of society. This bill about marriage is part of the astonishing and wonderful change that has taken place over the last fifty years that has taken millions of us from criminalisation to legal equality and the enjoyment of self-worth and validation. That certainly wasn’t apparent to me as a young man. What I understood was that there was something wrong with me that had — had — to be mastered. And for three decades I managed that struggle. And the relief and happiness of not having to do so any longer comes from others who fought for all of the measures advancing equality over the last five decades that are the precursors to today’s Bill.”

Crispin Blunt’s speech prompted Mark Menzies to note he would change from abstaining to supporting the bill.

Hugh Robertson closed the debate, praising the House for a “lively and impassioned debate” and stated the government’s case: “This is a bill with a very straightforward proposition at its heart: whether extending marriage for same-sex couples strengthens marriage and increases equality or whether it is a threat to religion and society. The Government believes it is the former.”

According to media reports, more Conservative MPs voted against the Bill than for it in the second reading. Conservative MP Tim Loughton said: “Apparently there’s 132 Conservative MPs who voted in favour, so I think what we’re going to see is that more Conservative MPs voted against this legislation than for it.”

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the passage of the Second Reading, saying the legislation represents “an important step forward for our country”.



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January 25, 2013

UK government formally launches same-sex marriage legislation in Parliament

UK government formally launches same-sex marriage legislation in Parliament

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Maria Miller
Image: Department for Work and Pensions.

The British government formally published legislation today to allow marriage for same-sex couples. The bill is titled the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. MPs would be able to vote on the legislation at the second reading in Parliament on February 5.

Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, said of the legislation to BBC Radio 4: “We feel that marriage is a good thing and we should be supporting more couples to marry.” Gay and lesbian couples have been allowed since 2005 to form civil partnerships.

The Coalition for Equal Marriage, a campaign group supporting the legalisation of same-sex marriage, have tracked support by individual MPs and claim 336 MPs are likely to vote in favour of the legislation, while 130 are likely to vote against. Conservative MPs are to be given a free vote, but both Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs are broadly in support.

As part of the legislation, the government have included a set of provisions they describe as a “quadruple lock” against churches and other religious denominations being forced to perform same-sex weddings, including an explicit ban on the Church of England and the Church of Wales doing so. The “quadruple lock” consists of an explicit statement in the Bill “that no religious organisation, or individual minister, can be forced to marry same-sex couples or to permit that to happen on their premises”, an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 to prevent claims of discrimination against religious organisations for not performing same-sex weddings, an opt-in for religious groups who do wish to perform same-sex marriages, and the explicit ban for the Churches of England and Wales.

Maria Miller said the government recognises “that some churches won’t want to participate in same-sex marriages. We are trying to make sure that there are the protections there for churches who feel that this isn’t appropriate for their particular beliefs. We know that there are churches who do want to take part in same-sex marriages, so we have made sure that there are provisions there so they can.”

Former defence secretary Liam Fox, opposing the legislation, has suggested the European Court of Human Rights will overrule the government’s protections for churches. He argued earlier this month: “Any assurances that we are given that distinguishing between churches will not be used at some point by European courts to drive a coach and horses through the legislation carries little credibility with those of us who have watched similar assurances trounced in the past.”

The Roman Catholic Church has strongly opposed the measures. Archbishop Vincent Nichols has said he is “very disappointed” the government is pushing for same-sex marriage and claimed it would “weaken” the institution. The Archbishop also claimed of the legislation: “[t]here was no announcement in any party manifesto”. However, the Conservative Party’s “contract for equalities” for the 2010 election included a statement saying they would “consider” same-sex marriage: “We will also consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage.”

A Guardian/ICM poll conducted in December 2012 found 62% of the British public favour allowing same-sex marriage.



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November 8, 2012

UK Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to investigate Nadine Dorries reality TV appearance

UK Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to investigate Nadine Dorries reality TV appearance

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

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Conservative United Kingdom MP Nadine Dorries is to face an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards over her decision to appear on the reality television show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!. Earlier this week, the chief whip Sir George Young suspended the whip (expelled her from the party) until she returns to the United Kingdom.

Today on ITV‘s This Morning, David Cameron defended the suspension of the whip: “The chief whip took the view – and I back this completely – that she had made the decision to go out and do this programme and that meant she couldn’t be in parliament, she couldn’t represent her constituents and I think people do expect MPs to be doing either one or two of those things, particularly when parliament is sitting”.

Dorries is to appear on the show alongside a variety of actors and actresses, sportsmen and entertainers including Helen Flanagan from Coronation Street, Charlie Brooks from EastEnders, Hugo Taylor from Made in Chelsea, Linda Robson from Birds of a Feather, Colin Baker from Doctor Who, Ashley Roberts (formerly of the Pussycat Dolls), darts champion Eric Bristow, boxer David Haye and comedian Brian Conley. Dorries could earn £40,000 from her appearance and could potentially spend up to a month away in Australia. The show features a variety of challenges including “gross-out” segments where the celebrity participants eat things such as insects, kangaroo testicles, and crocodile penises.

Dorries has defended her appearance on the show, telling the Daily Mail earlier in the week: “I’m doing the show because 16 million people watch it. Rather than MPs talking to other MPs about issues in Parliament, I think MPs should be going to where people go. I’m not going in there to upset people, but I have opinions. There are certain causes that I’m interested in, one of which is ’20 Weeks'” (a reference to her view that the legal limit for abortion should be reduced from 24 to 20 weeks). “I will be talking about this issue around the campfire. I hope there will be some lively, heated debates.”

Dorries later stated that her participation in the show would allow people to see that normal people can be politicians. “A lot of people don’t vote and if they can see I am a normal mother who comes from a poor background and who didn’t go to a posh school, they may think they can be a politician too. Maybe they will trust us more.”

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A variety of political figures have criticised Dorries for choosing to go on the show. The health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “A lot of people are very worried about it. And I think we want MPs where they should be, voting in the House of Commons.” Louise Mensch wrote an editorial for The Guardian lambasting Dorries: “Eating grubs and performing humiliating tasks on air are not consistent with being an MP – unless you’re retired, or desperate.”

The retired MP Ann Widdecombe, who appeared while an MP in Celebrity Fit Club and, after retiring, in Strictly Come Dancing, called the suspension “loony”: “Why on earth couldn’t they have said it is a matter between Dorries and her constituents and left it at that? Silly, silly idiots.”

On Twitter, Conservative MPs have reacted, with Claire Perry making a joke at Dorries’s expense: “I’m not fit to be an MP – kick me out of here”.



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