Yesterday I wrote that I would vote against redefinition of the word 'marriage'. Only did it because I'd been forced to declare publicly my opinion. Chris Eakin asked me directly when I was reviewing the papers on BBC News Channel on Tues night. I would have preferred not to have been asked, but it was an entirely fair question and not one I felt I could avoid. So I expressed my honest opinion. Worst fears have been realised. I have been widely branded a homophobe, a description I find deeply offensive. It leads me to reflect whether MPs are wise to ever express honest opinions. Probably a better tactic to waffle -be slippery - avoid answering the question.
I've been around a long time, and I'm comfortable with my opinions. And I'm not afraid to say what they are. I'm usually willing to consider amending them if confronted by logical persuasive argument. But since being elected an MP, declaration of opinion seems to cause trouble. Lets look at a few examples. I am in favour of a pilot cull of badgers. I oppose legalisation of assisted suicide. I oppose introduction of presumed consent into organ donation system. I support stricter rules for abortion. And I oppose redefinition of the meaning of the word 'marriage' to allow gay marriage. I fiercely oppose mass building of wind turbines and pylons in Montgomeryshire. And much else as well. Made all of this public before I was elected. Now I receive emails from constituents informing me that they will not vote for me again because of one or more of these opinions. I don't object to anyone disagreeing. Because no two thinking people agree on everything, this seems a bit odd. We settle these things by voting on them.
The strongest response so far has been about gay marriage. Some of the commentary has been unpleasantly condemnatory. I have been accused of being a bigot and homophobic. I deeply resent being so branded. Its utterly ridiculous. Gay friends tell me they agree with me. They tell me they resent being used in a rebranding exercise for a political party.
Now here's another opinion. Nothing damages politics more than politicians refusing to answer questions, using a form of words to disguise what they are saying. The curse of modern politics is 'The Line to Take'! I don't much like being given stick on the Internet - especially by constituents. But I think I will carry on trying to be open about what I think.