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 182.

    We don't need an article to tell us what we all already know- gay marriage has exposed Conservative divisions for the simple reason that much of the Conservative party is made up of xenophobic, homophobic bigots.

    These same old tired names from the party hate homosexuals, and they hate Europe for the same reasons - they have a far right mindset. It's just a shame Cameron listens to them at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.


    500 years ago the earth was flat, and now it's a sphere! who'd have thought it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    Could this be David Cameron's 'Neil Kinnock/Derek Hatton' moment?

    Kinnock put his leadership on the line in October 1985 at Labour’s Conference, daring to take on the Militants in his own party and tell them that they were out of touch with the mood of the people. In a move bizarrely reminiscent of the time, Cameron has thrown down the gauntlet to the luddites in his own party. Good Luck!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    andy 162

    Ok but a marriage DOESN'T have to be consumated. If this were the case there'd be upper age restrictions: a union between octogenarians, for example, would be prohibited (or at least would require a doctor's note). No, it's about divorce. And if you're saying that non-consumation is grounds for dissolving a straight marriage but won't be for a gay one then, yes, I guess that's a point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    @166 Statistician How can being against 'gay' marriage NOT be intolerant? And of course it's intolerant to stereotype and attack religious people. Please point out where I have done that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    The truth is, by being elected on just 37% of the vote (less than 20% of the population) the Tories have no mandate to do anything yet many of the old boys still think they are living back in the 1980's and can do as they please.

    They need to drag themselves into this century before they become utterly irrelevant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Reason that that won't work is that marriage is a relious thing despite your ignornance

    Sorry but who is ignorant? Marriage is not a 'religious thing', Marriage existed in the Middle East long before Judaism. Celtic Pagans had marriage, which they called "handfasting." The ancient Roman Religions had marriage - including same sex unions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    homosexuality: 50 years ago illegal, today illegal to question it, 50 years time compulsory?

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    57 sagamix
    Yes, but there are already legal civil same sex partnerships and the gov't has no right in forcing any church to accept this in a religious sense.
    I don't disagree with you but really why is the gov't involved at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    @164.KM Searle
    Don't miss quote me and use that to call me ignornant - I'm willing to listen to debate but I don't appreciate being insulted over something I never said. I never for a second said that all marriages were religious - I just pointed out that the religious element is an important part too. If it wasn't then why would this bill even be necessary?

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Firstly - the bible is the word of biggoted men from the middle ages, not the word of god. Secondly - Homosexuality is natural - it occurs throughout the animal kingdon. Thirdly, I'm disgusted that "religious" folk, of all people, feel that to deny people the same rights as others is the "godly" thing to do - shame on you and your perverse man made religions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    @165 - thank you for your hilarious conspiracy theory.

    I haven't laughed to much in ages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Personally, I can't see why they banned witch-burning, although I suppose you do have to think about your carbon footprint these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    @149 Peter Cochrane
    By your logic, God is presumably frowning on infertile couples who get married? And what if they don't actually become ONE, and instead, *gasp*, manage to keep two entirely separate personalities within the relationship. Perhaps you ought to check your desk calendar and work out what era it is!

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    I'm not a tory voter, but if it weren't for the fact that this is a big churchy issue, and the BBC is both churchy and also fairly prominently gay here and there, then I doubt it would be getting this amount of publicity, and therefore would not be the problem for the tories it is.

    I don't think much of the electorate could care less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Anyone who use the "procreation" justification in order to discriminate against gay marriage is also against post-menopausal women remarrying.

    Fact:Gay people are created by mainly straight parents.

    Get over it, or don't, but don't forget that nature is supposedly a god made thing, therefore you're discriminating against god's creations.

    OOh.. no points scored there!

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    I think it's hilarious that being against gay marriage is considered intolerant, yet people don't view it as intolerant to stereotype and attack everyone who is religious. Why is it that so many of the commenters on the bbc are consistently ignorant and intolerant of those with faith?

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Gay marriage will tear the UK apart, piece by piece, as the weeks and months go by. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, teachers, civil servants, marriage advisers, sex therapists, nurses, registrars, churches, school children, parents and more will all be systematically targeted by UK and EU law and found criminally liable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    @ 155. Statistician

    It is you showing your ignorance by claiming that marriage is purely religious. Presumably will tell the two thirds of heterosexuals who now get MARRIED via a registrar in a civil WEDDING that they're not actually married at all then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    For all the people saying it goes against "tradition" and "history" - being gay used to be illegal so of course it goes againt it!! If you were gay you were thrown in prison or killed so of course there wasn't marriage around! These aren't "gay" rights they are simply "rights" that every person is entitled to. Congrats to David for introducing the bill and pushing it through


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