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 142.

    The Palestinians could learn a thing or two from the gay lobby about demand creep.

    When you get a little go for more. The establishment will always cave in the end.

    What I find astonishing about the whole debate is that the Gay fraternity takes pride in non-compliance and now this fuss over a word.

    I would be a civil partner I never understood the lure of marriage but need the legal status.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Cameron need not trouble the whips, they and all the true blues can trudge off into the 'nay' lobby whilst he, and half a dozen others, can gaily join the LibDems and Labour in the 'aye aye' lobby. They won't dare vote 'no'. Since your colleague, Mr. Landale, has no comments page, I'll say I knew Huhne was guilty all along from day 1. He has amply shown his 'morality' subsequently. UKIP for Hants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    All Religious groups need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern country that is England. Tolerating intolerance under the guise of religion is not acceptable. As for Cameron he is merely window dressing to make the Conservatives look like a modern party, the truth is they are as morally deviant now as they were in the past. Spin and PR wont mask a regressive nasty party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Shouldnt that read exposed SPITE in the tory ranks?

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    @135. Lee:
    I'm religious - I'm tolerant of everyone regardless of their race, religion or sexuality as I've been brought up to respect everyone. However, I'm against gay marriage. I don't consider this to be intolerance as I've no problem with civil partnerships. I just don't see why it has to be called marriage when marriage is already a well defined institution between a man and a woman.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    People keep saying that votes will be lost for Conservatives at the next election due to David Cameron supporting same-sex marriage. Someone please tell me, where exactly are these voters flocking to? There is no mainstream party that does NOT support same-sex marriage. These "traditionalists" will just have to get used to the idea because it will be passed eventually.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Off course Gay people who believe in religion should marry in a Church, Synagogue, Temple or Mosque.

    The clue's the in words "believe" & "people". Gay's aren't second class citizens. Those who pretend they are, are the problem.
    However, as a "Rabid Atheist" as defined by the BBC, I fail to understand the delusion religious believers wrap themselves in.
    Remember Blair kept his beliefs secret.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Its amazing how religious types claim to be tollerant and peacful yet seem to be anything but when it comes to Gay marriage. Personally, I think the Tories are looking at the wrong issue if they want to know why they are so unpopular.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    SP 122

    Where do I stand when it comes to gay weddings? It depends on the occasion.

    Last time, for example, I didn't know either of the principals and so I stood across the street. There was quite a nice pub there fortunately.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    @109 grumpy old man
    If you don't think our elected politicians should take moral decisions for us, who do you want to take them?

    The idea of resolving 21st century moral issues on the basis of the content of a book written eighteen hundred yeas ago that reflects the oral traditions of a bunch of misogynistic shepherds from a backward pastoral hill-tribe does not seem like a better option to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    58. sense2

    "You would seriously advocate criminalizing/outlawing faith? You would be happy to see my family suffer because I dissent from liberal ideology, without meaning harm to anyone? I'm a believer in Jesus Christ and find this idea startling but not surprising, or even unlikely, in the future."

    I am diametrically opposed to you. I would ban all unproved, deluded religions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Excellent article Nick. Part of the broader difficulty for the PM with his own party is that 7 plus years on he is still trying to redefine the party and what he actually believes in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Most churches already have criteria to be met for heterosexual couples before they agree to allow them to be married eg where they live, are they church goers, previously married, religous inclinations etc. And there are blessing ceremonies too. Its by no means a certainty, and the choice is with the church.

    This will certainly add to the mix.

  • Comment number 129.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    I have to say, I'm really enjoying watching the Tory tie itself in knots over this issue.

    I believe the phrase "pass the popcorn" very much applies here :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    @82 Northumbrian

    And should selective injustices be addresse selectively?

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    115 No it will be because whilst he has confessed , the trial of his former wife is still ongoing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    I don't see the problem. A civil partnership gives all the benefits of a marriage, and even a traditional marriage has to have a registrar in the church. Therefore marriage is a purely religious ceremony. If you are gay and your religion forbids you to marry someone of the same sex, change your religion - no need to cause all this fuss.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    I agree with people who say Camerons commitment to legalise Gay Marriage is a cynical (and cost free) to appeal to the left voters. The question is will the marginal increase in votes for legalising gay marriage offset the loss of votes from the right. I think this is why he's promising a referendum at the next election because its his only chance of winning
    Remember he couldnt beat a weaken Brown

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    'Civil Partnerships have given equality in law to Gay couples'

    At least check your facts before making flipant and uneducated comments. The key legal advantages and protection of marriage are widespread. They include significant advantages in relation to inheritance tax such as the provision for a transferable nil-rate band.


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