There are some on the Right who like to refer to last night’s vote as being part of a “culture war”. It isn’t. The guns fell silent decades ago. Those who opposed gay marriage weren’t fighting a battle. They were sitting round a campfire, singing a few old regimental drinking songs, toasting the dead.
The debate on gay marriage isn’t cultural, it’s generational. Very few of my generation are unduly bothered by the idea of two people of the same sex getting married, and I’m in my 40s. Anyone in their 20s, watching Peter Bone standing up in the Chamber describing the saddest day of his parliamentary life, and banging on about another referendum, may as well have been looking at a Martian.
The Right can continue to take a stand on these issues if it wants. But it should ask itself one very simple question: “When was the last time we actually won one of these?”
Almost every progressive social policy change since the war has been introduced in the face of opposition from the parliamentary Conservative Party. And what does the Conservative Party have to show for it?
But if the hand of history finds itself brushed aside by the Tory party over social policy, it faces a full-frontal assault with a meat cleaver when it comes to the Labour Party and economic policy. We can have a debate about the detail and merits of George Osborne’s fiscal management; attempt to build up differences over the pace and scale of the cuts and deficit reduction into an ideological mountain. But in macroeconomic terms, the course is set. Austerity is here to stay. The days of big borrowing and even bigger spending are gone, for good. The Big State, whatever the merits, is a luxury we can no longer afford.
Yet the Left is confronting this reality in the same way the Right has faced the realities of gay marriage. By sticking its fingers in its ears, and whistling Dixie. Or the Internationale.
Yes, the economy may well slide back into a triple-dip recession. It’s even conceivable – though I personally think unlikely – the economic and political cycles may slip out of alignment enough for Ed Miliband to sneak into Downing Street. But sooner or later the basic economic realities of the 21st century are going to have to be faced.
To what extent is this true of our political culture in the US? Thoughts?