The danger for Mr Cameron is the breadth of offence he is beginning to cause. Tory Eurosceptics are still pained by the delay to leaving the EPP. Small government conservatives regret the caution on tax. Hawks are disappointed that defence is a lower spending priority than the NHS and Atlanticists fear the long-term consequences of the coolness towards the White House. Upsetting the party's social conservatives may be Mr Cameron's biggest risk so far, however. It became clear to ConservativeHome yesterday evening that David Cameron's decision to back the Government and gay rights against the liberty of the churches has upset a large section of his parliamentary party. The Cornerstone Group of 40 MPs are particularly angry. For a while this tightly-knit group within the parliamentary party has been relaxed about Project Cameron. The Tory leader's social conservatism on marriage and his support for Iain Duncan Smith's social justice agenda have kept them quiet. Their enthusiasm evaporated yesterday.
Ann Widdecombe (not a formal member of the group) warned that Britain was "in completely new territory" and that we could be witnessing "the death of religious freedom in Britain." She said that this debate was not about gay rights and compared the situation to abortion. Miss Widdecombe said that gay couples now had a right to adopt and a pregnant woman had a right to an abortion. The unsettling difference was that the woman did not have the right to require a particular doctor to terminate her preganancy but a gay couple had the right to go to any adoption agency to find a child.
MPs Gerald Howarth and Douglas Carswell also registered their concerns in quotations to the Daily Mail. Shadow defence minister Gerald Howarth:
"We now undoubtedly face a challenge from the UK Independence Party and to a lesser extent from the British National Party. We therefore need to measure what is the effect of the message we are sending. This will cause concern among a lot of traditional Conservatives up and down the country. This is an incredible assault on freedom of conscience... This is a motif for his leadership. Our core supporters in the country don't like it and they are saying they will vote for UKIP. It's wrong, it's offensive. it's political correctness, and it's social engineering. Tony Blair has given us 20 months to adapt 2,000 years of Christian teaching. It's unacceptable."
"I will not be taking David Cameron's position on this. I will be supporting the Churches. This isn't about gay rights, it's about whether we should be interfering in the very good job that a part of civil society does on our behalf for children who are hard to place."