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Angry Labor left-wing MPs are vowing to fight Julia Gillard’s proposal for a conscience vote in Parliament on gay marriage, accusing her of pandering to the party’s conservatives.

Victorian senator Gavin Marshall, a factional convener and chairman of the Left group in caucus, said that while there appeared to be a favourable view of conscience votes in the community, in practice it would not be democratic on this issue.

It ”cedes power to the minority conservative element within the party as they know they can count on the support of an opposition that is stubbornly opposed to all social reforms,” he writes in The Age today.

It also exposed MPs to powerful conservative lobby groups. A majority would like to vote for equal marriage, but ”a conscience vote has the potential to force many to default to factional alliances rather than vote with their heart”.

Senator Doug Cameron, also a Left convener, said the conscience vote was a political tactic by the PM to ”satisfy some of the more extreme views on the right of the party”.

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