Sunday 6 May 2012

Lord's Reform and equal marriage: A reminder for the Conservatives

Whilst I was trying to be connected to the Inside Politics studio at BBC Radio Ulster I heard the chair of the Northern Ireland Conservative Party, Irwin Armstrong, say that nobody wants Lord's reform. It was a sentiment also expressed by Nadine Dorries MP on ConservativeHome earlier today.

May I just refer them and all other members of the Conservative party who think like that to page 67 of the Conservative Party Manifesto in 2010.b Where it says:

"We will work to build a consensus for a mainly-elected second chamber to replace the current House of Lords, recognising that an efficient and effective second chamber should play an important role in our democracy and requires both legitimacy and public confidence."

So you see this isn't a matter of the coalition agreement, this was in both parties' manifestos, as well as that of Labour. If Tories are calling this back they are calling back their own manifesto pledge.

Then there is the issue of equal marriage again raised by both Mr Armstrong and Ms Dorries. In the Conservative's Contract for Equality published on the Monday of election week in 2010 it said:

"We will ... consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage."

So again though not in their manifesto, although in a last ditch addition, it was something that the current Home Secretary signed off on and spoke highly off in the campaign. Irwin Armstrong may not have seen a need to change the word to marriage, but his Home Secretary does, the reason is equality.

Equality because people out there don't see Civil Partnerships as legal. Guesthouse landlords think they can turn away legally partnered couples because they are not 'married'. There is a difference which unfortunately homophobes will continue to attack so long as the language is different. Labour failed to make things totally equal, even though the rights are there, because they failed to deal with people's prejudices by creating room for another one.

I'd just like to thank Mark Devenport and his production team for trying to get me on to the show this afternoon to put the Lib Dem point of view against the Labour and Conservative ones. Sadly timing and technical issues made this not possible today.

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