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Ukip plans to derail the Tories over gay marriage: Farage has perceptively concluded that this, not the economy or Europe, is what will destroy Cameron

Farage understands the Tory grassroots much better than Cameron and his pals; this, in the end, is what will unseat him as leader of the party

By on Friday, 14 December 2012

Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Downe, Kent (Photo; PA)

Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Downe, Kent (Photo; PA)

I have been reading the Guardian for the last week. I get it on my Kindle, on which the first two weeks of a newspaper subscription is a free trial: and I have to say that reading the Guardian really is a bit of a trial for an old reactionary like me. Unlike the Independent, which does at least try to be dispassionate, every word of the Guardian is dripping in its own variety of Left-wing bias. The paper seems to me now a very long way from the vision of its most famous editor, C P Scott, who in a famous piece marking the Manchester Guardian’s centenary in 1921 wrote that the “primary office” of a newspaper is accurate news reporting: in his words, “comment is free, but facts are sacred”. Even editorial comment, he said, has its responsibilities: “It is well to be frank; it is even better to be fair.” Well, the comment in the Guardian, signed or unsigned, is to my mind sometimes so grossly unfair that it’s practically unreadable: the very names of its two most prominent commentators, George Monbiot and Polly Toynbee, are almost synonymous with unfairness and spite (as Lord MacAlpine in the case of Monbiot discovered to his cost). And even the news reporting often needs to be checked against other sources.

But I digress. I mention the Guardian because of its (credible) front page splash on Wednesday: “Ukip plans to derail David Cameron over gay marriage.” Nigel Farage has, it seems, spotted what many others saw some time ago, but what Cameron himself has apparently not yet understood: that this, not Europe or the economy, could be the issue which will destroy his leadership of the Tory party and lose him the election.

The main group campaigning against the change – the Coalition for Marriage (whose petition, ignored by the government, as I write has 620,505 signatures) – is warning Tory MPs that the issue could bring about what it is calling Cameron’s “Iraq moment”. Tony Blair needed the support of Tory MPs to win the Iraq vote after 139 Labour MPs rebelled. But winning that vote with the help of his enemies did lasting damage to Blair’s authority within his party from which he never recovered. That seems to me an entirely valid parallel.

Cameron thinks this is all about the modernisation of the party and bringing it into touch with modern Britain. But if he loses the trust of his party, in the country as well as in the House, he will find himself walking on very marshy ground; and if he goes any deeper into this swamp (as he can now hardly avoid doing) it could (and I predict will) swallow him up. Members in the constituencies are resigning in record numbers. And it’s not just the Guardian which is reporting that. According to Iain Martin in the Telegraph, “Tory MPs say they are getting a steady stream of letters from outraged constituents and party members who are resigning. One MP, a supporter of gay marriage, admitted that the letters have been running 6-1 against over the past six months.”

And many of those who resign are defecting in the direction of Nigel Farage. That’s why Mr Farage, as the Guardian tells us, “plans to put the issue of gay marriage at the heart of Ukip’s campaign for the 2014 European elections”. “Amid signs that Conservative associations are losing members in their droves,” the paper reports, “over what is being dubbed the prime minister’s ‘clause IV moment’, the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, warned that gay marriage could ‘rip apart’ the Conservative party. He plans to put the issue at the heart of Ukip’s campaign for the 2014 European parliamentary elections”.

These elections, it should be noted, will take place a few months after the gay marriage legislation is due to come into force (though my own guess is it could still be bogged down in the Lords, whence it may never emerge unless Cameron, with the general election looming, foolishly invokes the Parliament Act, thus signing his own death warrant as party leader).

This is how Farage explains his tactics: “David Cameron’s proposal has the potential to rip apart the traditional rural Tory vote. While Ukip wholly respects the rights of gay people to have civil partnerships, we feel the prime minister’s proposals will present an affront to millions of people in this country for whom this will be the final straw. The division between city and rural is absolutely huge. In my village pub in Kent they are just completely against.”

Farage thinks the gay marriage issue will benefit Ukip by highlighting the impact on this country of the European court of human rights and by giving his party a touchstone issue around which it can rally. “Ukip is not a one-issue party,” he says. “But the gay marriage case is closely interwoven with the European Court of Human Rights, as is so much of our life. Ukip will be seen to be a party campaigning not just about who governs Britain but about how we think that Britain should be governed.”

Farage is right to invoke the spectre of the European Court of Human Rights. For, whatever legislation the government introduces to give national Churches the freedom to accept or reject the right to celebrate gay marriages in their own buildings and according to their own rites, any Church which forbids any such enactments on its premises and by its ministers will undoubtedly lay themselves open to proceedings in Strasbourg. In the words of the Anglican blogger Archbishop Cranmer, writing on the occasion of the government’s original bogus “consultation” (tell us what you think, then we’ll ignore it)

“The intention of the Government … presents a very high risk of Churches and Faiths being forced to marry gay people. Their right to manifest their religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance will be struck down at the Altar of Equality.

“It cannot be that legislating for religious gay marriage could be justified under Article 9.2 [of the European Convention on Human Rights] but we strongly fear – as do most of the Churches and Faiths of our country that, whatever the intentions of the Government are in this regard, such will be forced on them by the Strasbourg Court – a court which has a well-established track record of forcing the United Kingdom to adopt positions, such as votes for prisoners, which are anathema to our people. We [the Libertarian Alliance] believe that this case will be no different.”

I agree. The fact that whole Churches, as national institutions, may be given the right to (may even be legally forced to, in the case of the C of E) refuse to “marry” people of the same sex will not protect them at Strasbourg. Any Anglican, any Catholic, will have the right to take his own Church to the European Court, especially if other Churches have been given the right to go through some kind of “marriage” ceremony: this will simply, in the eyes of Strasbourg, compound the unfairness of those Churches who don’t allow it. So the latest concessions simply hasten Mr Cameron’s forward lurch into the swamp he has conjured up for himself. His leadership of the Tory Party has surely now gone beyond the point of no return. And it could indeed be Ukip which will finish him off, with the votes of many of those Conservatives who will never again (as in “never again glad confident morning”) vote for the party as long as he is its leader.

  • W Oddie

    Yes he has: and he does

  • W Oddie

    (from another Yorkshire Catholic) Well put.

  • W Oddie

    A very long time indeed: so NOT a fashion (they don’t last: we have).

  • David Lindsay

    Of course, Labour (of which I am not a member, by the way) has always been a party of all social classes, all of which benefit from social democracy, in most cases very directly indeed. In fact, one of the things distinguishing Labour from the Coalition is its continuing commitment to the central and local government action necessary in order to secure the existence of a large and thriving middle class, as well as the central and local government action necessary in order to secure the work of charities and of churches. No wonder that Labour won Chipping Norton at this year’s local elections.

    Only Ed Miliband’s Labour now advocates the Union as a first principle, and any concept of English identity. A universal postal service bound up with the monarchy. The Queen’s Highways, rather than toll roads owned by faraway and unstable petrostates. Her Majesty’s Constabulary, rather than the British KGB that is the impending “National Crime Agency”. Labour’s own 1997 manifesto commitment to renationalise the railways. The National Health Service, rather than piecemeal privatised provision. Keeping Sunday at least as special as the last Conservative Government left it; admittedly, that is not saying very much.

    The restoration both of energy independence and of the economic basis of paternal authority, through the reopening of the mines promised by Ed Miliband to one hundred thousand people at the 2012 Durham Miners’ Gala, as well as through the expansion of nuclear power. The historic regimental system. Aircraft carriers with aircraft on them. No Falkland Islands oil to Argentina. The State action necessary in order to maintain the work of charities and of churches. The State action necessary in order to maintain a large and thriving middle class. A referendum on continued membership of the EU. A real terms reduction in the British financial contribution to it. A free vote on the redefinition of legal marriage. And very, very, very many other things besides.

    Speaking of the EU, the internal Labour shift on that issue, illustrated as much as anything else by the number of MPs from the 2010 intake who have signed up to the Morning Star Readers’ and Supporters’ Group (a 34-year-old Assistant Whip, only elected last year, is leading the campaign against Government Departments’ boycott of that organ of Euroscepticism from the very start; at university we used to rib him about how right-wing he was, but getting on in Labour is clearly now a very different matter) means that longstanding dissidents from the party line who have instead advocated absurd ultra-federalism are extremely unlikely to be permitted to contest the next European Elections, or at least not in positions that gave them any realistic hope of re-election. Why, even I might then be able to vote Labour at a European Election, for the first time in my life.

  • NewMeena

    Well said Oh “old reactionary”.

    But you know people remained fundamentally ignorant of their place in the cosmos (in the widest sense) for “A very long time”, and of their place in the scheme of life on the Earth.

  • NewMeena

    I meant “O”.

  • paulpriest

     This is the point of Aquinas’s 1st and second perfections in which he argued of course they were married – that’s why many arguments against SSM are wrongly footed in saying the nature of marriage is having and rearing children when it isn’t – that is the natural aim/telos of marriage – the nature of marriage is a loving union and the natural consequence is for that love to overflow and share in the gift of new life…

  • whytheworldisending

    I didn’t use th eword murder. Human sacrifice will cover it all. You think there’s nothing wrong with 2 people signing a contract agreeing to have sex and become pregnant on condition that the baby is killed in the womb? Probably not when its spelt out like that, but that’s exactly what is happening when pro-death fornicators have sex outside of marriage. The agreement is there – its just not in writing. What kind of people are they? Atheists - they value something more highly than life itself. What is it? - their own sexual gratification. Nice? That’s atheism for you.

  • Pavlov

    Alex Salmond and the SNP will also fall at this hurdle, come the 2014 vote on Independence. Thank God for some principled religious leadership from the Catholic Church in Scotland, and esp Cardinal Keith O’Brien. After all, this is the Year of Faith! Never before has our faith been so challenged 

  • Chris McLaughlin

    Doubt this will help win the Catholic vote:

  • Bob hayes

    The eugenicists’ agenda is – regrettably – very much alive. Its most virulent manifestation is, of course, in the form of abortion. 

  • Stephen Smythe-Jones

    A bit over optimistic, I daresay. What will derail Cameron is not same sex marriage but Britons finally having had enough of being the serfs of the French and Germans in the EU and “under the thumb” so to speak of the Brussels masters. Same sex marriage (an oxymoron) will be along for the ride as icing on the cake.

  • Stevgoldsmith

    But before the wedding service was written into the Book of Common Prayer, marriages were much more informal: couples could simply promise themselves to one another at any time or place and the spoken word was as good as the written contract.

    People just get on with it, regardless of what this or that church is pushing this week or next.

  • SimonPJ

    It is always good to read the attributed as opposed to anonymous comments of my former colleague Nicolas Bellord, although he underates himself as being a mere hack lawyer. I do wonder why NewMeena bothers to spend so much time on a Catholic website as he clearly thinks most serious Catholics are misguided and part of an irrelevant minority, and shares the liberal left’s hatred of the middle classes, of which I am proud to be a member. But he also claims to be titled, as if that is relevant to the debate, so why does he not come out and disclose his true lineage and identity?

  • Nicolas Bellord

    UKIP has disowned this eugenicist candidate labelling his views “abhorrent”.

  • whytheworldisending

    Two ways to undermine the integrity of a nation so as to bring about its collapse – flood it with drugs and undermine respect for the Rule of Law, by legislating without any moral basis. One way to ensure a strong and cohesive national spirit – teach the Christian faith and ensure that the Law of the Land is fully compatible with it and supportive of it.

  • Mike

    Nonsense — UKIP is nothing more than the UK version of the US Tea Party, and we’ve all seen how effective they have been in toppling the Republican Party leadership (and nominating a Tea Party favorite for President) over the last couple of years. The only difference is that the Tea Party chose, by force of circumstance, to operate within the GOP itself, and not as a reactionary fourth party on the extreme right.

    I doubt this will even come close to toppling Cameron as party leader, and replacing him with a social conservative will only ensure the demise of the Tory party in 2015. As American conservatives are beginning to realize, demographics are inevitably turning gay marriage into a done deal — the opposition is quite literally dying off as large majorities of young people see no reason to deny their gay friends the right to marry.

    What’s in it for Farage anyway? A Tory party lurch to the right will only put the squeeze on UKIP, and their chances of winning a single seat in the next general election are already slim to none.

  • tim

    “never glad confident morning again”   Respect for what the poet actually wrote, please!  Your  version doesn’t scan. “The Times” wrote some time ago “Then Wilderness were Paradise now” (but that was presumably a spellcheck correction).