Question Time sparks equal marriage debate

David Dimbleby presents Question Time, filmed at the Corn Exchange in Ipswich.

David Dimbleby presents Question Time, filmed at the Corn Exchange in Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

It’s felt as if the national political agenda over the last few week has all flowed from the pretty explosive Question Time filmed in Ipswich a week ago.

It was during this programme that Defence Secretary Philip Hammond set the cat among the pigeons by stating his doubts about the equal marriage bill.

Frankly the way the shallowness of his arguments were exposed by shadow cabinet member, well-known gay activist and former Anglican clergyman Chris Bryant was a masterclass in political put-downs.

By the end of the exchange few people in the audience, or watching the programme on television, can have been in any doubt about what Mr Hammond really thought of the bill in particular and the gay debate in general!

I watched the programme being recorded from the sidelines – and the hour and a half of pre-recording set-up when the sound and light levels were being checked by staging mock debates.

I have to say, it seemed that the producers had selected a very balanced audience which split as I would have expected on issues like Europe and Syria.

However when the gay marriage issue was debated, it was clear that the overwhelming majority of people were either in favour – or not that fussed either way.

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I know there are some Conservative members that are jumping up and down about it – but I suspect that the fact is that the vast majority of Tory activists are retired people and it is this group that is least able to accept change.

I’ve spoken to several Conservative activists on the subject over the last few months.

Of those under 60 the vast majority are in favour of gay marriage. Most of those over that age don’t like the idea.

When I saw the four grey-haired, suit-wearing, Tory activists who presented a petition to 10 Downing Street on Sunday, the pictures and words told the nation as a whole far more about the state of their Conservative Associations than it did about the gay marriage debate.

MP Ben Gummer voted for the bill – I’m sure the majority of those in Ipswich support him in that.