THE only Dorset MP to abstain in the gay marriage vote has defended his position.

In correspondence with concerned residents ahead of the vote, Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood had said: “I have concluded that I cannot support the Government on this proposal.”

Several of his constituents told the Echo they took this to mean that Mr Ellwood would be voting against the bill and were surprised to discover he had abstained.

But Mr Ellwood said: “I made it very clear that I would not be supporting the government but I never said anywhere that I would vote against.

“In my own mind I am supportive of the principle and I think it is important that we have this debate but it has to be done at a pace which society can accept. I feel this legislation is slightly ahead of its time.”

Equal marriage: how your MP voted