Gay marriage will be Cameron’s Poll Tax
It is all mono-dimensional politics, of course. But these events are enduringly inescapable; inseparable from the personages and characters by which they are defined. As is the creation ex nihilo of ‘gay marriage’.
It may be a social innovation ‘whose time has come’; it might even be ‘just’, ‘equitable’ and a ‘good idea’. But it is catastrophically bad politics for both David Cameron personally and the Conservative Party generally. Contra Francis Maude, same-sex marriage is not a progressive decontamination of the Tory brand; it is a contentious recontamination, destined to alienate thousands of traditional supporters and revive incessant murmurs of division and ‘Tory splits’. Personally, David Cameron needs to be seen to be concerned, focused and associated with macro policy and the wholly necessary crucial reforms to build a better Britain – we’re talking about the economy, education and welfare. Politically, the Conservative Party needs to be focusing on winning a majority in 2015 (or even sooner) in order to complete the task – we’re talking about winning the Pakistani Muslim vote in Luton; the Indian Sikh vote in Southall, the African-Caribbean Pentecostal vote in Lewisham, and the Roman Catholic vote throughout the North-West. These groups tend to have strongly conservative views on moral issues such as homosexuality, and ‘gay marriage’ is quite simply a step too far.
But it isn’t only bigoted and backward fundamentalist Evangelicals and staunch Roman Catholics living in the ‘Dark Ages’ who oppose same-sex marriage; it’s liberal Anglicans as well.
It isn’t only arch-Tory Telegraph journalists or whiggish Daily Mail reactionaries; it is socialist Guardian ones as well.
And let’s not forget those hundreds of thousands of homosexuals and lesbians who are by no means crusading for gay marriage, but are perfectly and quietly content with the equality provisions afforded by civil partnership.
There is, quite literally, a rainbow coalition of all socio-political colours ranged against the Coalition on this matter, and these groups represent millions of votes. Unfortunately for David Cameron, he won’t be able to U-turn from this policy whilst blaming the Liberal Democrats for the confusion and lack of clarity: he nailed his red, purple and pink very firmly to the mast; he is intent on creating gay marriage, he says, ‘because I am a Conservative’.
While political commentators have been thrashing and flailing around trying to find Cameron’s ultra-modernising ‘Clause IV’ moment by which the Tory modernisation project might be completed, his Poll Tax has crept upon them. Gay marriage isn’t likely to bring out the hordes to riot in Trafalgar Square, and he has no constitutional right to impose it first upon the people of Scotland. But it is now a policy out of all proportion to its political significance: it is eclipsing the economy and reforms to welfare and education; it is upstaging foreign policy initiatives and visits to the White House. It is dividing his party and the whole country. For this Prime Minister, the utterly peripheral and third-order issue of gay marriage is likely to be trumped only by the break-up of the United Kingdom.
Is this really to be David Cameron’s legacy?