Why gay marriage has exposed Conservative divisions

Same-sex marriage ceremony

Many older Conservatives remember days when they were much more unpopular than they are now - days of strikes, riots and massive protests on the street, days when their leader's name was spat out with anger, days when they felt proud to be Tories.

Those Tories look back with fondness at that time of heroic unpopularity - when they awoke with pride to hear the news about the protests of the dragons Mrs Thatcher was slaying - the unions, CND and the Soviet Union.

Those same older Tories loathe the daily wearying grind of the age of austerity and coalition compromise.

They wake up now to hear with indifference or disappointment or, worse still, anger the news of what their government is doing. It is gay marriage which has released that fury.

Gay marriage was always certain to cause a furious row since it challenges sincere religious beliefs, deeply-rooted social conservatism and a mistrust of the metropolitan elite who are blamed for imposing an ideology of legally enforced equality on the country.

However, the real reason for the anger directed at David Cameron is that many Conservatives have realised that they and their attitudes are the dragon their leader has decided to slay.

Many believe that their leader only embraced gay marriage as part of his obsession with modernising the Tories and/or to claim credit for a measure the Lib Dems were determined to drive through.

There may be some truth in both but talking to senior Tories about gay marriage reminds me of talking to Tony Blair about Iraq.

When people hurled at him their belief that he was invading Iraq because of oil or a desperation to suck up to America he would reply "It's worse than you think, I really believe this".

The same is true of those around David Cameron and his acolytes. They really do believe in gay marriage. They believe much opposition to it is rooted in what they call "bigotry".

They want their government to be remembered for a great social change and not just its efforts to turn the economy around.

The divisions on display now stem from the fact that, in order to get their way, they are having to slay the sincerest beliefs of some of their own activists and MPs.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    I appreciate the arguments that as long as you're not hurting anyone else whats the big deal? The truth is who are we kidding, if that was the basis of our laws we have outlawed hunting in Scotland for example. Gay Marriage has public acceptance and polotical will: that is the only reason that matters.
    If I was E. Milliband I would be toasting tommorow to the end of Cameron's reelectiion hopes

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    If this issue is tearing the Conservative party apart, there can't be much holding it together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Re: 58.
    sense2 "all religion faiths told they must accept this or cease to be allowed to practice their religion within the UK"

    Oh dear....what can I say? Will there be death camps after they refuse? Just asking...

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Carl Pierce, post 31

    Do you ever take into account that what is also 'natural' for a few species of animals to kill and eat their young, or their mate? Ought we to take our cues from animals as to what is good? Without arguing either way about homosexuality, it's just poor reasoning from where I stand to selectively appeal to animal behaviour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    If people of the same sex wish to marry they should be able to do so and all religion faiths told they must accept this or cease to be allowed to practice their religion within the UK.It is really time to concentrate on more serious matters like getting the country back on its feet.It seems that the present government are clueless so a general election should be called without delay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    'The gov't has no business involving itself in what is essentially an internal church issue.' - LUCID @ 47


    But marriage is a state in law. Thus it's a legal issue and a matter requiring legislation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    You can tell when a government is heading for the next electoral exit by the amount of time their back benchers spend plotting against the leadership of the day!!!!

    On a more serious notes it has become patently apprarent that the only move awat form being "the nasty party" is on the part of the PR men in the Tories team........

    .....spin, spin & more spin is all they've got......

  • Comment number 55.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    However, you, I, Government or Church sit on Gay Marriage or same sex partners is entirely irrelevant and unless directly affecting either of us totally nothing to do with us. What seriously has it got to do with Christian, Islam, Jew or any other faith. Does it stop the same from following their particular belief and worship. To many oars in the water on this one and not one of them together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    14. You can't emigrate. Everywhere else is full of foreigners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    'I am not gay but I am a tory.' - Justin @ 37


    That's strong. That's the sort of opening line that really hooks the reader.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    @ Kammbo

    Why do Christians think they have some sort of ownership of the institution of marriage ?

    Marriage isn't just for Christians you know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Think there may be other reasons this has exposed divisions: its a peculiar defiance of science.

    Try to base other future policy on science, even moral argument, opponents can undermine citing past.

    Peter Bottomley used 'fair' word on R4. In that case why do unmarried siblings sharing a house not have access to IHT tax breaks available to those in civil partnerships?

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    @37 "Gays are not some weird deviant sect"

    Correct, they are not..... The problem is that some genuinely want marriage and some just want to "stick it the system". So you have religious/political arrogance toward the later, to the detriment of the former.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    I don't think Cameron is taking much of a risk with Tory voters. The elderly reactionaries he's mostly offended are never going to vote Liberal or Labour are they, and the UKIP switchers will make that decision for other reasons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    The gov't has no business involving itself in what is essentially an internal church issue.
    Whats next? telling the moslem and other religions that they must accept gay rights...Fat chance.
    Sort out the countries woes or at least try to before getting involved in this irrelevance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    I am still at a loss why the Tories are discussing it in the first place,
    we accepted same sex relationships a long time ago, legalise it and move on . and get on with the fact the countries falling apart, starting with the NHS!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I don’t see what the issue is. Do they believe being gay is a choice and therefore wrong? If that were the case I would like to ask all those opposed, at which point did they make a conscious decision to be heterosexual and how long did they consider the alternative?

    Choice or not, let people live their lives as long as it causes no harm to others - which this clearly doesn't!

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Fundamentally it comes down to a key question .... Is there any advantage at all to voting tory?

    Under thatcher, I might have been angry about the devastation in industry, but there was the counter of her being tough on crime, imigration, political correctness etc.

    Under these lot I see no redeeming features whatever.

    Austerity, stagnation AND political correctness forced on us.

    Role on 2015.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Looking at the photo of the 'delegation' outside No. 10 proves that this lot are representative only of the over 70s - a large group, but not one that is touch with the way the world is now and certainly not a majority. Most people are happy to live and let live and are not interested in poking their moral christian noses into strangers' lives.


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