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 102.

    'Marriage is of course a sound tax planning point. You can leave your estate free of IHT. Recent notable marriages following a diagnosis of imminent death include Jade Goody and Michael Winner.' - Andy @ 91


    Yes and fair enough, I suppose. Certainly not the most egregious form of tax dodging. Not even that 'morally repugnant' when you think about it.

    She was a bit young for him, though.

  • Comment number 101.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    @82 Northumbrian

    Should injustices be addressed selectively?

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    "They want their government to be remembered for a great social change"

    They'll be remembered alright: for dividing Society, increasing Food Banks, suicides up, targeting disabled people, misogyny, penury, hostility to immigrants & welfare claimants.etc etc.
    This is just a gimmick to water down the nasty image of the Tories!

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    I'm very much in favour of equal marriage, but I want this legislation to fail.

    I'd rather wait a few years for all opposition to be defeated than to have same-sex marriage be made illegal in the CoE now. It's too much of a compromise that loses sight of the driving principle - equality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    I have no objection to gay marriage or equal rights. However, I greatly object to the notion that no one seems to be picking up on the legal issue, i.e. that adultery only takes place when one has sex with a member of the opposite sex. My husband (21 yrs married), is now in love with a young man, yet I can't divorce him on the grounds of adultery. Equal rights should mean equal rights for all

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    If you don't like gay marriage, then my hint would be not to get gay married to anyone, and to sort out your own life rather than worry about what other people are doing that doesn't affect you. The time for some religions to control what other religions (and the government) can and can't do should be long gone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Saying that black is white does not make it so.
    You can shout that black is white from the roof tops.
    You can pass laws declaring that black is white.
    You can even threaten dire consequences to anyone who does not agree that black is white but black will never be white.
    There will never be any such thing as gay marriage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    'Marriage is between a man and a woman. The freedom of good ordinary people is at stake here'.

    Your image of freedom seems to be somewhat warped. The very definition of freedom is 'liberty of the person from oppression', yet you are championing the oppression of a whole section of society. While checking the definition i would also suggest looking up bigot!

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Why are so many people up in arms about gay marriage? They talk of the "sanctity of marriage" and how it is against the values of this ancient institution...
    However, perhaps they should be more concerned with the HUGE number of failed 'regular' marriages we see plaguing our country, if marriage is actually as important to them as they claim....

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    65.MoneyObserver - "Just wait for the European Court of Human Rights to rule that all Christian churches must conduct gay marriages, but other religions won't have to..........."

    How paranoid do you have to be to believe that hype...???

    If such a ruling was made (it won't be, but that's another story) against the Christian denominations it would apply equally to all religions.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Marriage is of course a sound tax planning point. You can leave your spouse your estate free of IHT. Recent notable marriages following a diagnosis of imminent death include Jade Goody and Michael Winner

    With a nil rate band of a paltry £325k it's a reasonable idea for singles to marry someone you trust who distributes your estate after you die. If they survive 7 years you avoid IHT altogether

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    "David Cameron does not understand what marriage means in a christian context that is why he is happy to ride roughshod over peoples beliefs!"
    But why do your beliefs trump mine? Why do I have to defer to yours when yours are unequal and unfair?

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Gay marriage and prisoners having the right to vote!
    Have we not got more important things to worry about?
    Why should the "church" particularly the Roman Catholic church have so much influence on this issue?
    Most people in this country are tolerant and not particularly religious.
    If it's all that important let's do away with marriage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    In the 21st century, it is a travesty to deny two people the right to express their love in the same manner as a different pair, just because of an unlucky combination of genders.

    Nobody has the right to impose their religion on anyone else. If you don't support gay marriage, then simply don't get gay married, and no one is hurt. Human rights are not something to be voted on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    3 Minutes ago
    @Megan "The only reason for passing laws allowing 'gay marriage' (or indeed anything else) is if it is in the national interest to do so."

    Correcting an injustice is in the national interest.

    I agree, I was saying that laws should be passed in that light not for personal or party gain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    I've learned not to get too hot and bothered about the opinions of a minority of biggots. Ley C of E people and some Tories are shooting themselves in the feet. My advice is to sit back and enjoy the aftermath of their own stupidity. Churches empty and the Tories once again reclaim the name of the Nasty party. So keep it up, but be careful not to protest too much, 'cos you know what happens then!

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Why does Mr Camerons new found enthusiasm for 'equality' not extend to financial matters ?
    His parental family's money was spawned out of tax havens - surely he should want to spread such funds amongst the poor ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    I'm gay, and to be quite honest I'm furious with the Tories about everything they've done and will do to local government, education, the poor and all the 'have nots' far more than I care about whether gay marriage is available to me as an option or not. Would that some of the others felt the same, perhaps then we could talk about real inequality

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    @75 I am a happily married straight man and the church has nothing to do with my marriage.
    This is about equal rights and why anybody feels threatened by it is beyond me. If you want to have an imaginary friend that's your prerogative. It is not your prerogative to use that as an excuse to impose your views on others.


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