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Mr Fabricant, in custardy wig, loudly cheered pro-gay speakers
23:32 GMT, 10 December 2012
Sarcasm: Matthew Offord asked if polygamists would now be given a Government consultation
Might bigamy be the next love that dare not speak its name The Commons yesterday had its first chance to discuss gay weddings in church. Handsome Matthew Offord (Con, Hendon) opposed the idea. He asked if polygamists would now be given a Government consultation.
Will it be anything-goes time, now that marriage is being redefined Will we all be swinging from chandeliers, shouting ‘Geronimooo’ in socks, suspenders and not much more
Maria Miller, Minister for Equalities, answered Mr Offord with her trademark repartee. ‘Marriage,’ she mumbled, ‘is between two people.’
Mr Offord: ‘Says who’ Before every swinger in Britain jumps on the bus to racy Hendon, we should probably explain that he was being sarcastic.
The Commons was largely united in favour of gay marriage. Supporters ranged from right-winger Gavin Barlow (Con, Croydon C) to careerist floater Michael Ellis (Con, Northampton N) to Labour’s Chris Bryant (Rhondda), once a parson.
‘Having married more people than I can remember…’ said Mr Bryant by way of an opening. He is the Miss Zsa Zsa Gabor of the Valleys.
Ian Paisley (DUP, N Antrim), son of the Rev Ian, wondered if churches would be needing a ‘derogation’ from European human rights laws. Bob Stewart (Con, Beckenham) could not understand why the Government was ‘so hellbent on upsetting so many thousands of our citizens who are in normal marriages’. Hearing that ‘normal’, Labour MPs tutted.
Yesterday’s exchanges were but a preliminary bout. The Government will today make a formal parliamentary statement on gay marriage.
Yesterday’s discussions were on an Urgent Question from Edward Leigh (Con, Ginsborough), a churchgoing Roman Catholic. He was granted the question by Speaker Bercow and Mrs Miller took a couple of swipes at Mr Bercow for wasting everyone’s time by insisting on this warm-up yesterday.
I am sure that Mr Bercow, co-star of Westminster’s very own Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos show, could give us all a moving homily on the joys of wedlock.
Mrs Miller, at the despatch box, favours monotony over showiness. To the naked eye she could be Clare Balding’s brunette sister (with maybe a hint of American TV comic Jay Leno) but the debating manner is not interesting. Should thigh-slapping ever become an Olympic sport, Mrs Miller may struggle to be selected for the British team.
Noisiest person on the Tory benches was Michael Fabricant (Lichfield), whose tie complemented his custardy wig. Mr Fabricant, we gathered, was hot for gay marriage in churches, yet he did not seek to join the debate.
He just sat there in the middle of his side’s ranks, loudly cheering pro-gay speakers, theatrically disagreeing with those who doubted the policy.
Heckler: Michael Fabricant, a vice-chairman of the Conservative party, sat there in the middle of his side's ranks, loudly cheering pro-gay speakers, theatrically disagreeing with those who doubted the policy
This was done with much goofing and gurning and squeezing together of his knees.
Mr Fabricant is a vice-chairman of the Conservative party. For a senior party officer to heckle some of his own party’s MPs (he was particularly vociferous yesterday during a question from Enfield Southgate’s David Burrowes) struck one as a novel approach.
Julian Brazier (Con, Canterbury) wondered if school-teachers would be forced to stifle reservations they might have about gay marriage. Mrs Miller did not quite say.
Repeatedly we heard requests that churches be given freedom not to hold gay weddings. Repeatedly Mrs Miller said religious freedom would be defended.
Sir Tony Baldry (Con, Banbury), Second Church Estates Commissioner, spoke of a ‘quadruple lock’ to ensure that churches would not be forced to marry chaps. Andrew Slaughter (Lab, Hammersmith), characteristically, tried to play things for cheap partisan advantage by attacking Monmouth’s David Davis (Con) for saying parents might prefer their children to be straight. Mrs Miller, in a properly liberal Tory reply, said that ‘people should be able to say what they think’.
We had to wait until almost the very end before anyone raised the question of Britain’s mosques. Rehman Chishti (Con, Gillingham), son of an imam, wondered what Muslims had said to the Government during its consultation. Mrs Miller said they had voiced ‘some concern’. An understatement, possibly.