I wonder if other people winced when they read or heard Speaker John Bercow’s address to the Queen in Westminster Hall last Monday? I feel almost a personal sense of embarrassment when I listen to him as he happens to be the MP for Buckingham, my own constituency. As Buckingham is a safe Tory seat and as he is Speaker, I fear we have got him for life. Knowing how quickly he has jumped on any ultra-liberal bandwagon that presents itself – wanting to extend our abortion laws to Northern Ireland, for instance, and voting to lower the age of homosexual consent – this is not a happy prospect.
So I was glad to read Ann Farmer’s letter today in the Telegraph, articulating my own thoughts. Having letters published in the press requires skill; whenever she is published, Mrs Farmer always manages to sound clear, concise, temperate and informed. You could call it a kind of epistolary apostolate. For those who haven’t seen it, this is what she writes:
John Bercow, the House of Commons Speaker, in his florid Diamond Jubilee address to the “kaleidoscope Queen”, appeared to promote his interests as patron of the Kaleidoscope Trust, a homosexual equality organisation. The Government’s determination to legalise same-sex marriage against widespread opposition makes it even more inappropriate for the Speaker, traditionally a politically neutral office, to highlight controversial issues.
On what should have been a celebration of 60 years of a monarch who has steadfastly avoided controversy for the sake of the higher good, Mr Bercow had the opportunity to raise his political stature. Sadly, it seems he chose to maximise his role and minimise the Queen’s.
Interestingly, the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has issued a judgment saying that the European Convention on Human Rights “does not require member states’ governments to grant same-sex couples access to marriage”. The Court has ruled that this is not a question of discrimination or human rights. This goes again the British government’s plan to legislate for same-sex marriage on the grounds that existing law denies natural rights and discriminates against the same-sex minority.
However, the European ruling does imply that where a country legislates for same-sex marriage, then it will have to ensure to right to those couples to marry in churches if heterosexual couples have that right. To refuse this facility would be discrimination. Neil Addison, a specialist in discrimination law, comments: “If same-sex marriage is legalised in the UK it will be illegal for the Government to prevent such marriages happening in religious premises.” The British consultation document, issued last Thursday, has tried to make a distinction between civil marriages and religious marriages and said there would be no question of forcing churches to become involved.
Perhaps Mr Bercow would like to make a “florid” address to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, pointing out its deficiencies in its judgement?