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

Debates - on or off?

David Cameron says he wants to take part in TV election debates and that he thinks a deal can be done but he's also setting new conditions for taking part.

Read full article

More on This Story

More from Nick


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    ARE there any tax planning ramifications? Well given that CPs already have the same fiscal status as marriage, no I guess there aren't"

    Ah but there are! Marriages have to be consumated, civil partnerships do not. You could form a civil partnership with a friend for tax purposes and this couldn't be challenged on the basis that it wasn't valid as it hadn't been consumated

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    How do we sort out this unholy mess? We recognise there are two mixed concepts:

    Tax breaks given by the state
    Church blessed relationships

    We separate them. The state should get out of the marriage business completely and the churches should be free to join whoever they want in marriage.

    see https://outsidethemarginals.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/marital-mess-and-messages/#more-776

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    And for all the kerfuffal in Tory ranks within Westminster shows how they are still very much the nasty party, depcite PR man Cameron's attempts to "detoxify the brand" the real nastiness in their ranks can be see by bile being spewed forth by the pary members every time the gay marriage topic comes up for discussion.....

    .....such a shame for what was once an honourable, one nation party....

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Christianity isn't a political party which changes its foundations to suit the trends of today! If gay marriage goes through, then let the two women and one man from brazil who wanted to become a married item in brazil get married here! If you can change the boundaries of marriage once,then why not again and again?

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    149.Peter Cochrane
    'Marriage was created by God in that a MAN and a WOMAN can become one and also for the procreation of children'.

    More uneducated bigoted drivel. First of all, there has to be a God in order for it to invent anything. Barring that minor fact, marriage pre dates both Christianity and Judaism. Evidence shows there were same-sex marriages in Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Peter Cochrane- why exactly will it be demise for the Tories? Where are those voters going to go? BNP? No I don't think so. Labour and Lib Dem? Ahh, yes,vote parties who are more pro-gay-marriage than the Conservatives anyway! The Tory party will only benefit from this

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    'the Gay fraternity takes pride in non-compliance' - Brontosaurus @ 142


    But the desire (of gays) to marry springs from the very opposite. It indicates a hankering for the mainstream. A wish to belong rather than be outsiders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    @152. KM Searle: "The bizarre insistence that the concept of marriage somehow belongs to religion is way off the mark."

    No need for gay marriage then just make sure civil partnerships have same rights as marriage? Reason that that won't work is that marriage is a relious thing despite your ignornance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    If you're opposed to the idea of equal marriage due to religious grounds, then you really don't have a leg to stand on when you don't oppose the idea of two atheists getting married.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    The reason the Tory party have such problems over gay marriage is because they are not a truly British representative party. They represent outer suburbs and rural areas in England only. Also, if a profile was taken of their members they are largely over-60. Therefore they have a problem representing the diversity that is modern Britain today. Hopefully it'll lose them the 2015 election. Barry

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    @ 147.grumpy old man

    "The gays" as you charmingly put it, aren't making a fuss about being married in churches but about being married at all.

    Marriage is primarily a legal status and two thirds of heterosexual weddings are civil ceremonies. The bizarre insistence that the concept of marriage somehow belongs to religion is way off the mark.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    How can people possibly argue that granting equality to a marginalised sector of society is a waste of the government's time? Unless, that is, they do not believe that that sector deserves equality. Opposing 'gay' marriage is opposing my right to be treated as your equal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Replace the word "gay" with "black". Or "Muslim". Or "disabled".

    Now see how ridiculous your arguments against sound?

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Gay marriage is WRONG!
    Mr Cameron - you are a hypocrite. You claim to be a Christian and then you advocate Gay Marriage!!!????
    Marriage was created by God in that a MAN and a WOMAN can become one and also for the procreation of children.
    If this is successfully pushed through parliament, then that will be the final demise for the Tories - and they deserve it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    [....]when marriage is already a well defined institution between a man and a woman.
    A definition of 'marriage' is actually not easy. Same sex 'marriages' in history were also part of such a definition; main focus was property and politics.

    'Marriage' is more than any one of its attributes.

  • Comment number 147.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    I can't imagine the Tories losing votes because they put this reform through, the main parties support it pretty unilaterally.

    I can imagine the Tories, (or at least some specific Tories) losing votes because of their opposition to the plans. Having your MP go on the TV, radio or internet and tell you that you're a second class citizen, who shouldn't be afforded rights is a bit of a vote-loser.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    andy 121

    Not sure why your post was referred, Andy. It's perfectly right and proper to consider the tax planning ramifications of gay marriage. And let's face it, if you don't raise the topic there's a risk that no-one will.

    So, ARE there any tax planning ramifications? Well given that CPs already have the same fiscal status as marriage, no I guess there aren't. But it's worth stating that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    @Statistician "I'm against gay marriage. I don't consider this to be intolerance as I've no problem with civil partnerships". You might not be intolerant towards civil partnerships but you are towards 'gay' marriage. The words "I'm against gay marriage" give that away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    Bye Bye Conservatives, people with faith will remember this when the next genera; election comes around, you will be destroyed in the marginal seats, Labour and Liberals laughing all the way to election day.


Page 32 of 40



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.