During my life time I have seen the struggle of people all over the world to overcome oppression and fight for democracy. From Nelson Mandela to Aung San Suu Kyi they recall how our Parliament was a beacon of hope in the darkest days of their struggle to bring democracy to their countries. At the same time I have seen the decline of respect for politicians in our country, reaching what I hope was as an all time low before the last General Election.
Like many of my colleagues who were elected to Parliament for the first time in 2010, I knew that in addition to delivering the manifesto pledges that I made during my campaign to get elected, I needed to work very hard to rebuild trust for politicians and respect for our Parliament. This is a personal responsibility I take very seriously. There have been major reforms to how Parliament works and holds the Government to account and yet the latest biannual survey of public attitudes towards those in public life found that the percentage of people who felt that MPs are ‘dedicated to doing a good job for the public’ has fallen to just 26%.
When the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was published last year, the commitment I made to my constituents to restore their trust in British democracy was therefore at the forefront of my mind.
Whilst making clear my personal support for equal marriage for same sex couples, I pledged to vote on the third reading of the Marriage Bill according to the majority view of constituents that contacted me.
In delivering on that pledge I have been keen to enable an informed debate and, thanks in part to widespread publicity from the local media, I have heard from hundreds of local people on this issue. With support from Stonewall and the Coalition4Marriage I have been able to hold a number of public meetings on the proposals, including one at Falmouth University, and am very grateful to Bishop Tim Thornton for joining these meetings. I have listened closely to the wide range of views expressed to me. For those attending the meetings, I hope they enabled greater understanding of the issues raised in this debate.
The clear majority of representations to me from constituents expressed opposition to the Bill. As such, as promised to my constituents, I did not endorse the Marriage Bill at its third reading in recognition of the lack of endorsement of the Bill’s contents from the people of Truro and Falmouth.
This experience has taught me two things- first, that people really want to actively participate in our democracy, and secondly that much more needs to be done to ensure that same sex couples receive the full acceptance in our society that they deserve. I am grateful to all of you who expressed your views to me and will continue to do all I can to create a more engaged, more direct democracy and a fairer, more equal society.