The thing you notice about certain elites is that same-sex marriage is the Holy Grail, the thing that Must Be Accomplished, no matter what. One can certainly understand why it is top priority for gays and lesbians, and one can also grasp why it is considered to be a non-negligible issue for many others. But it is so exalted as the Cause Of Causes for a certain kind of educated elite person that they will spare nothing to see it through. Even the potential wrecking of their own political party.
Case in point: David Cameron, the Conservative prime minister of England, and a backer of gay marriage. There was a vote on a same-sex marriage bill in the Commons today. It won overwhelmingly — but what a Pyrrhic victory for the Tory leader. More than half of the Conservative Party MPs defied their leader and voted against the bill. From the Telegraph:
Mr Cameron, who described gay marriage as “an important step forward for our country”, smiled broadly as the result was revealed. Nick Clegg called the vote “a landmark for equality in Britain”. Ed Miliband said it was “a proud day”.
However, the details of the vote quickly showed that Mr Cameron’s decision to push through the legislation has left him in a minority within his own party over the issue.
Sir Gerald Howarth, a former minister who voted No accused Mr Cameron of turning the Conservative Party against itself.
“This is a very serious and a very sensitive issue and is causing deep divisions in the Conservative Party,” he said, “There is no mandate for it.”
Oh, Sir Gerald, why not? It’s not like Britain, its back breaking from debt, has anything more important to worry about. It’s not like the Tory Party needs to keep itself together to fight for more causes more important to ordinary British voters, like reviving the country’s miserable economy. Indeed, as the Guardian wrote the other day, it is true that most Britons support gay marriage, but they also say they have far more important things to worry about. Excerpt:
Not only is opposition to reform a minority view; it’s also an issue that commands the passions of only a tiny number. We asked people which three or four issues, out of a list of 15, “will be important to you in deciding how you vote at the next election”. The top three are the economy (56%), immigration (42%) and health (26%). Same-sex marriage comes 12th, cited by just 7%. And that 7% divides 4:3 in saying they would be “more likely” rather than “less likely” to vote for a party that supports same-sex marriage.
In short, this is not an issue that will decide the next election. Politicians who claim to form their views by “listening to voters” should be wary of employing “my postbag” as a reason to resist gay marriage. This is one of those controversies – fox-hunting a decade ago was another – where the number and intensity of letter-writers bears no relation to the views of the wider public.
Note, of course, that the Guardian writer was citing the poll results as a reason for MPs to vote in favor of gay marriage. But the results can be read another way: as something Cameron didn’t have to waste his precious and diminishing political capital on, because voters’ passions are otherwise engaged.
In the midst of this, the contractual arrangements of a few thousand homosexual couples are a tiny matter. My own view was always that wise and compassionate reforms of inheritance law, tenancy transfers and the rules about next of kin, could have increased human kindness without raising a great political storm. But it’s not a battle I wish to fight , when the far more important war, for the survival of marriage itself, is being lost across that 5,000 mile front.
As for the political flim-flam of this week, Mr Cameron and his allies, of course, want to destroy *conservatism* while keeping the *Conservative Party* in being , as a safety valve for conservatives in a liberal society. The same-sex marriage issue is a perfect vehicle for achieving this. What he desires is a country in which all the parties are in fact the same, but have different names so as to absorb tribal energies and maintain the tragi-comedy known as universal suffrage democracy. As I wrote long ago, Communist East Germany had a multi-party parliament. The only thing wrong with it was that all the parties, though they had different names, agreed on all important matters. I struggle increasingly to see any serious difference between the old People’s Chamber of East Berlin, and our current arrangements.
Mr Cameron does not care about losing votes and members, because (like all rich liberals) he personally has nothing important to fear from a Labour government, which is probably inevitable anyway. He is, as he told anyone who would listen, the heir to Blair. He meant it. He said it. He has always acted accordingly, as I said he would.
The mystery is not why Mr Cameron hates conservatives, which is obvious and easily explicable. Liberals do hate conservatives. It is why so many conservatives still give their loyalty to him, and their votes to his party.