Fri 31st Oct 2014 | Last updated: Fri 31st Oct 2014 at 16:19pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo

Comment & Blogs

Forcing through the same-sex marriage Bill will bring Cameron down: his determination to do it shows how out of touch he has become

He has thrown away his authority as Tory leader over an issue utterly irrelevant to the nation’s problems. Is he mad?

By on Monday, 4 February 2013

David Cameron is setting up a cabinet level task force to combat Islamic extremism (Photo: PA)

David Cameron is setting up a cabinet level task force to combat Islamic extremism (Photo: PA)

It is now becoming clear that marriage, more than Europe or the economy, is the issue which more than any other will lose the next election for the Tories. They cannot now win. According to a ComRes poll, taken this month, quoted by the rather well-written letter handed in at 10 Downing Street yesterday by 25 Tory local party chairmen, 20 per cent of those who voted Conservative in 2010 agree with the statement “I would have considered voting Conservative at the next election but will definitely not if the Coalition Government legalises same-sex marriage”. That includes me: I voted Tory in 2010 — I didn’t just want rid of Brown, in my naivety, I was attracted by the idea of The Big Society, as were other Catholics, including Archbishop Nichols (maybe that should have made me think). That turned out to be an empty slogan. Now Cameron is about to enact same-sex “marriage”, which did not figure, either in his election manifesto or in the coalition agreement. I will never vote Tory again, so long as Mr Cameron remains Tory leader. I know that means Miliband in Downing Street: but how could that be any worse? The fact is that our polity has been wrecked, and our society gravely (though perhaps not, given time — at least half a century — irreversibly) damaged by those who have held power in this country over the last 25 years. There is very little real democracy left. Blair wrecked the constitution. Cameron is about to damage, very seriously, the institution of marriage, the building block from which our society is built. It all looks pretty hopeless, and if your assumptions are entirely secular, hope isn’t, indeed, a commmodity you can rationally harbour very much of.

Back to the Tories. The fact is that if 20 per cent of those who would have considered voting Tory at the next election will not do so if the gay “marriage” bill is enacted, then he cannot win. Nor can he ultimately survive as leader if over half his MPs vote against him tomorrow, as the Sunday Telegraph (which always has good information among the Tories) predicts. There is very little loyalty to the Tory leader left among his MPs, who are well aware of opinion among their own grassroots. According to yesterday’s Telegraph, around 180 Conservative MPs, including six whips and up to four members of the Cabinet, are ready to oppose the Prime Minister’s plan to legalise gay marriage: that leaves only around 120 Tories to vote for the measure. At the same time, the 25 chairmen or former chairmen of Conservative party associations I have already quoted have warned that the policy will cause “significant damage” to the Tories’ 2015 general election campaign. One chairman, who has quit over the issue, said “this is a policy dreamt up in Notting Hill”; a still serving chairman said it had angered the grassroots more than Europe. Cameron is tearing the Tories apart, and for what? It seems like political madness.

According to the Telegraph, among those who will vote against will be Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, and David Jones, the Welsh Secretary, Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, who will either vote against or abstain; Iain Duncan Smith is expected to abstain. At least half of the Tories’ 12-man whips’ office, on whom Cameron relies to enforce party discipline, will also vote against as will senior Tories like Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Liam Fox and Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Commons Treasury Committee. A good number of junior ministers will also vote against. The fact that this will be on a free vote can provide no comfort for Mr Cameron. Downing Street has made it plain that it regards this as an issue of confidence; and bullying messages have been put about implying that those who vote against the bill can forget any advancement in their political careers.

The letter from the Tory chairmen is too long (Cameron probably won’t even look at it, he’s so arrogant), but it’s worth reading, all the same. I quote simply two paragraphs:

“According to another ComRes poll in February 2012, 70 per cent of British adults agreed that ‘marriage should continue to be defined as a life-long exclusive commitment between a man and a woman’.

“To dismiss these strongly held views as those of an extremist minority, or a minority at all, would be wrong, as would the assumption that this is an issue which will swiftly be forgotten and abandoned by those who have made their feelings clear. We feel it would also be wrong to assume that the passage of time will remove opposition to same sex marriage and the advocacy of traditional conservatism. The largest faith groups, the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and Islam ,are strongly opposed to same sex marriage in common with most practiced faiths in Britain. Equally, we are sure you will agree that the Conservative Party needs to do much more to attract ethnic minority voters to the Conservative cause. It is predicted that by 2030, 25 per cent of voters will be of ethnic minority background, most of whom oppose same sex marriage.”

That final point really does show how out of touch Cameron has become. He has just had the bright idea, it seems (on top of his renegotiation with the EU, etc etc) of trying to make the Tory party more attractive to black and Asian voters. And he forces through this vote on gay marriage? Is he totally out of touch with reality? But why do I even ask the question?

  • Jonathan

    It’s a good point.

    In our time, at least, social conservatism appears to be waning – across a range of issues.

    You’re right to point out that they may well gain strength at some point in the future.

  • Frank

    I agree that abortion is an on-going issue and should have more focus. It’s just that at the moment there is an opprotunity to re-awaken the idea of marriage and what a good idea it is and has consistently been proven to be. As SPUC says “unborn children are safest in marriage” which tells it’s own story. .

  • Jonathan

    I haven’t phrased myself well. I don’t question for a second the great work that is extended to people of all beliefs – and none – by Catholics.

    The thing that we seem not to do is to defend/ argue for/ support… the rights, wellbeing (in their own terms – not ours), and freedoms (in their own terms, not ours) of people with different points of view, different beliefs.  

    We expect it for ourselves, but don’t want it for others.

    We are quick to argue for the rights of Catholics in Muslim-majority countries.  Slow to care about Muslims in Christian-majority countries.  That isn’t Christianity, it’s tribalism.

    We don’t argue for people who are gay in any constructive way at all, in spite of all that our catechism has to say.  We argue only for our own interests.

  • scary goat

     “On the other hand, it’s refreshing that you’re willing to look at what other churches can teach us.”

    “Us” ?  Are you Catholic, Jonathan?

  • Jonathan

    No, I’m not Catholic.  I use “us”, “we” etc when I talk about me and other humans, whoever we are.

  • Francis

    Well said Jonathan!  That’s what many Catholics are thinking.

  • Francis

    In the opinion of many Catholics too!

  • paulsays

    …out of touch with Tory voters? Yes with some, but not with the general public as a whole, no. The latest YouGov poll suggests that 55% percent of people support gay marriage becoming legal.

    This might not be smart politics for Cameron for the next election, but I think it shows that he has a heartfelt conviction that what he is doing is correct. Whether or not you agree with him on the issue or not, to somewhat fall on his sword in putting through something that will likely damage him electorally, I think is quite commendable.

    On a further note, give (once it passes) gay marriage 10 years, and it will be as acceptable to Conservative voters as civil partnerships are now. There is a tide that cannot be turned back, and the Church should stop protesting so loudly, as it will regret it in the future, when the rest of the world has moved on.

  • Francis

    My observation of local Church of England vicars, male or female, is that they are much more pastorally sensitive and active than some Catholic priests I have had experience of.  Some of them were bone idle!

  • awkwardcustomer

    Jonathan, what exactly does the catechism say about gay people?

  • Francis

    The hierarchy like to insult the intelligence of the laity by making such absurd statements.

  • awkwardcustomer

    Good.

  • awkwardcustomer

    If Marie Miller is Catholic then she needs to study the Catechism.

  • awkwardcustomer

    Are you the same Jonathan who said somewhere above that he isn’t Catholic?  Or are there two of you?

  • Jonathan

    I didn’t claim that the catechism has anything to say about gay people.  It has much to say about the fundamental dignity of every human person though.

    The gospels exhort us to “love our neighbour” not by hating their sins, but straightforwardly. 

  • Jonathan

    I think there’s just me (and Jonathan West).  I am not Catholic.  I am Christian.  I don’t think that there are two of us. (If you see what I mean!).

  • Kevin

    Opponents need to make it clear that any contracts entered into under the new law (if passed) will be declared retrospectively null and void, with all the ensuing ECHR nonsense slapped aside as well.

    Cameron is relying on opponents not being bothered enough to reverse the decline in social morality. He has reason to be confident about that but he needs to have that confidence shattered.

    Is it really worth subjecting our children to a liberal tyranny for fear of losing a mediocre job (if that) to pay for a mediocre home (if that also)? As a people, we currently do seem to be that pathetic. Time to man up.

  • Paul

    Jonathan, it’s not about the freedoms and rights of people with different beliefs.  Imagine a group of people who hold drunken orgies every Sunday morning instead of going to church.  And imagine the same group of people demanding that their drunken orgies be recognised as church services designed for the worship and honour of God.
      They might be able to persuade politicians such as our current PM to recognize their drunken orgies as church services in some legal sense, but their drunken orgies will never be church services and they will never be for the worship and honour of God.
      The drunken orgy and the church service are two radically different things.  One is founded on God and blessed by him, the other is not, it is founded on a different spirit altogether.

  • JabbaPapa

    55% percent of people is NOT a sufficient % for such a DRASTIC change to a foundational building block of the social contract.

    This project amounts to an act of gross constitutional vandalism.

  • teigitur

    Seems to me to make perfect sense, but then perhaps I am not as “intelligent” as you.

  • JabbaPapa

    Then she should be excommunicated.

  • teigitur

    I am sure they would welcome you with open arms.

  • teigitur

    So, as I suspected your knowledge of the Church, as in the RCC is , at best patchy. Thats fine, but please do not proport to have knowlege of stuff which you clearly do not.

  • teigitur

    There was a massive response where I live( Scotland)

  • teigitur

    Like “YouGov” is neutral on anything, Though I do think its around 50/50

  • JabbaPapa

    The great majority of Catholic women has always disagreed with these sorts of suggestions.

    They are political ideas of this world only, they are not of the Church nor of the Kingdom.

    Women as altar servers is an abuse (notwithstanding the occasional extraordinary ministry as the need may arise here or there from time to time).

  • Paul

    Jonathan, the objective discrimination is that I am being robbed of the use of a word that is important to me and whose semantic content has been established over several thousands of years in the natural way, by common usage, not by diktat of politicians.
      If ‘marriage’ is to have the meaning you and the politicians are seeking to legislate for it, then I will be ashamed to admit that I am married, even though my marriage is nothing to be ashamed of.
      It should not be so.

  • JabbaPapa

    Without equal marriage, how might you propose accommodating the Quakers,
    Liberal Jews etc who are religious but also share the views held by the
    majority of the British public?

    No Laws currently exist preventing such sects from performing whichever rituals — nor teaching whichever creeds.

    Laws will come into existence severely curtailing the teaching of any religious mainstream views of marriage to the next generation if this Law is passed, and having a strong risk of eventually infringing upon the sole right of churches to determine who should or who should not be married religiously.

  • JabbaPapa

    In what way is this supposed to be a response to a comment regarding the ordination of women ????

  • http://profiles.google.com/jill8.gfl Jill Armstead

    Someone tweeted that heterosexual couples have been s*****g on the institution of marriage for decades.  I would not have put it quite like that myself but have to agree with the sentiment.  As for Ed Milliband – do you really want this professed atheist to run the country?  Not only does he not do God, he doesn’t believe in Him either? 

  • mollysdad

    What I’m saying is this. The notion that two persons of the same sex can marry each other is such an affront to reason that anyone who affirms that they can do so must be a liar.

  • James

     Typical anti-catholic prejudice here…

    “When do Catholics argue for the freedoms, rights, wellbeing, protection… of adults  with beliefs different from our own?”  
    All the time, it’s just you and the mainstream media are too bigoted to realise it.

    Forget which institution civilised europe?  Well it was the church.
    Forget which institution is the largest dispenser of healthcare and aid in the world?  RCC again

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    Well I think there should be a survey into this subject.  But I bet there won’t be…..since its too embarrassing for those who support gay so-called marriage.

    Immigrants like everyone else want to shape the society their children will be born into.

    A bit of oppression is a great tonic for the spread of the Faith.  Look at Russia…once a bastion of oppressive atheism….now Putin is saying the Church should have more say in the State!  No more comfort zone Catholicism from now on.

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    We don’t.  We argue for love of God and Christ….and faithfulness to His commandments.

    All else is a mirage.

  • Alban

    Then as a Catholic her conscience (if she has one) should be pricking her deeply.

  • Alban

    In this ridiculous world where everything, however illogical, is based on equal opportunities, I’m waiting for the demand by men to bear children and for women to grow testicles.

  • AlanP

    The point is, people have somewhat different concepts about what marriage is.  Catholics (and most Christians) define it as between a man and a woman, normally with a view to bringing up children.  Other people define it differently, namely as a loving relationship between two people.  Neither is “an affront to reason”, and nobody is lying or “evil”.  But we can legitimately say they are wrong, and argue accordingly.

  • Francis

    Jonathan may not be a member of the RCC but he speaks for the silent majority in the RC church who long for the day when women can rightly achieve high office, even pope. If a woman had been in charge perhaps we wouldn’t have had the despicable Vatican policy of cover-ups of child abuse which has brought the RC church into such disrepute.

  • mollysdad

    If two persons irrevocably give to and receive from each other the exclusive right to engage together in acts from which the conception of a child could result (absent any malfunction of the reproductive system), then they marry. If not, then they do something other than marry. All you have to do is examine human anatomy to recognise that this is the only true notion of marriage. All others are preposterous and intolerable abominations.

  • Francis

    The RC hierarchy can’t enthuse the laity enough to actually write letters to their MP’s, so they they spend church money, which could have been used for the relief of poverty,  on pre-printed postcards.  It borders on the pathetic.

  • Jonathan

     It wasn’t meant to be, JabbaPapa… I’m not sure how it ended up here.

  • Jonathan

     No laws currently exist preventing such seccts from performing whichever rituals — nor teaching whatever creeds.

    Laws at present prevent Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews from marrying couples of the same sex.  This forms part of our belief about the place of love and the value of same sex relationships.

  • Jonathan

     Sure, but we already accommodate hugely significant differences between the state’s understanding of marriage and the understanding held by various religions.  Many religions in this country count as a valid marriage only first marriages; or marriages between people of the same religion.

    The extension under consideration in Parliament today is just that – a further extension of the difference between various religious interpretations of marriage and the variety of marriages recognised by the state.

    Great accommodation is being made to enable religious bodies only to marry those people it sees fit to marry.

  • Jonathan

     Good grief, James, it’s no more helpful to argument to brand people you disagree with as anti-Catholic as it is for me to start branding everyong who disagrees with same-sex marriage as homophobic.

    For what it’s worth, I am absolutely clear that I respect and value the Catholic voice in our society – and I want our laws to protect religious freedom in all its variety.

  • liquafruta

    The Conservative MP Conor Burns is quoted in today’s Independent as follows: 
    The whole thing is deeply unpleasant and people are saying things that you wouldn’t say to people you despised or hated,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of God some of those people who have contacted me from religious groups believe in – but he’s certainly not compassionate or loving.”
    And another comment:
    “One MP told The Independent that a number of his colleagues were intending to vote for the Gay Marriage Bill because of the “appalling” nature of the emails they had received.”
    So this is how vitriolic attacks on anything can have the opposite effect from that which was intended. Do we know how many of the million postcards were actually sent off?
    I think David Cameron has worked out that he will gain more votes than he loses on this one. As the other parties support it too , with the exception of  Farage and Co, he really has nothing to lose as a) it will all be forgotten about next week and b) the Conservative Party is trying to divest itself of its quote “nasty” image.

  • liquafruta

    Thousands of Tories switching their votes is not going to make the slightest electoral difference. It would have to be hundreds of thousands and not that many care enough about this issue to let it influence their vote. Polls show that the issue is very low down on people’s voting priorities. Cameron is no fool.

  • Fr Gerard

    “When do Catholics argue for the freedoms, rights, wellbeing, protection… of adults  with beliefs different from our own?”

    As a prison Chaplain, I am constantly fighting for the rights of others from different tradions and cultures in the same way as I always have.

    Your argument sounds more like a caricature of Catholicism.

  • Fr Gerard

    *traditions

  • liquafruta

    If all the Catholics who support Marriage Equality were to be excommunicated together with those who are divorced or who are gay or who use contraception where would we be?

  • liquafruta

    28,000 postcards were returned out of 200,000 printed and sent out by Cardinal O’Brien in Scotland.