UK Politics

David Cameron denies gay marriage policy regret

David Cameron
Image caption David Cameron says he did not expect same sex marriage to cause such a "furore"

David Cameron denies claims in a new book that he regretted his decision to put same-sex marriage into law in England and Wales.

The prime minister said Britain was a "fairer" country because of the new law but admitted he did not expect the "furore" it generated.

The Tory, Labour and Lib Dem leaderships all backed the new law.

But it caused tensions in the Tory ranks, with Mr Cameron accused of being out of touch with his grassroots.

According to extracts from Matthew d'Ancona's book. In It Together, published by the Daily Telegraph, Mr Cameron told an ally: "If I'd known what it was going to be like, I wouldn't have done it."

'Passionate'

Mr Cameron denied this, telling BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "I don't regret it. Britain is a more equal and fairer country for having done it.

"It's certainly true to say that this is an important change. I don't think I expected quite the furore that there was.

"It's clearly been very difficult for some people to take on, and I completely understand and respect that.

"I'm not sure perhaps at the beginning we got across to people that this was about marriages that could take place in register offices, that this was not going to change what happened in church, mosques or synagogues."

He added: "I am passionate about marriage. I think it's a great institution, and I think it should be available to people who are gay as well as those of us who aren't.

The decision to push ahead with the legalisation of same sex marriage met furious opposition from religious groups and some of Mr Cameron's own MPs.

It is thought to have been one of the factors behind a mass defection of grassroots members to the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in some parts of the country.

A leading Conservative think tank has this week warned that the party is "dying" and facing "an existential crisis".

The Bow group, which bills itself as the Conservative Party's oldest think tank, says under David Cameron party membership has halved, with the average age being 68.

The group suggest that within five years UKIP will have more members than the Tories "at the current rate of attrition".

Decreasing membership

Ben Harris Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group ,said: "The nature of the modern Conservative Party Conference reflects its crisis in willing support.

"Conference is now populated by lobbyists, not members. It offers no freedom and no democratic rights to a membership who barely recognise or connect with what the Party has now become."

In the Bow group conference magazine, several leading members of the Conservative Party, such as former leadership contender David Davis and Sir Edward Leigh, a leading voice on the right, call for urgent action to reverse the decreasing membership.

David Davis writes: "We need to do better as a party at having a two-way conversation between the grassroots membership on the one hand and the leadership and professional management of the party on the other.

"The Party conference shows just how much this conversation has broken down. Members no longer have the opportunity to interact and make speeches in the main conference hall.

"Whereas conference used to be an exciting occasion that brought us together and reinforced that sense of the Conservative family, it is now a much more tame affair with few genuine opportunities for engagement beyond the fringe meetings."

Figures released by the Party earlier this month, following a campaign by the Conservative Home website, showed it now has 134,000 constituency members - down from the 253,600 who voted in the leadership election Mr Cameron won in 2005.

In 2012 Labour had 187,537 members, while the Lib Dems had 42,501.

There has been a general decline in party memberships over recent decades, although UKIP has bucked the trend by doubling since 2010 to 30,780 members.

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