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 782.

    I came to this country 1 year ago as the civil partner of my British partner.
    We had been living together in Brazil for 4 years before coming to live in here.
    We couldn`t get married there or even get civil partnership, those are unthinkable in my country where most families and people see homossexuals as a "mistake" in society , Britain did the right thing, that makes me proud of living here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 781.

    I only ask if someone has a consceince (Kant) or is criminal. I don't ask if they are gay, a quest worker or hankering after some old cosmology (religion by another name).

    If gay couples wish to be to known as married couples I'm afraid its beyond my enquiry. As long as they treat others as they wish to be treated by others.

    All the media have failed my test above. It was a free vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 780.

    For the first time in years I am proud of our elected government and the country we live in. Today is a momentous day in the fight for equality for everyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 779.

    A sigh of relief that at last the UK is playing catch up with the elite liberal countries of the world (clearly not those ruled by ayatollahs and the Taliban). It's a shame we had to endure the litany of holy sanctity of marriage ordained by God for procreation by one man and one woman etc etc. If an MP can't separate religion from their obligation to improve society then why are they there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 778.

    All these people whinging about the Conservative manifesto blah blah etc should maybe remember that that manifesto didn't win an overall majority. Cameron leads a coalition government with the help of the Lib Dems. The UK has moved on, in every sense. The views of some of the bigots in the Commons today show clearly why the Tories couldn't win an overall majority in 2010, or ever again.


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