The enthralled Tories
David Cameron’s crusade to legalize “gay marriage” has been superficially successful – at least until it gets to the House of Lords – but it has alienated and puzzled many natural conservatives.
Despite many months of attempting to persuade recalcitrant Conservative MPs that the proposal would have the effect of strengthening the institution of marriage, and then imposing a three-line whip on the motion, a majority of Conservative MPs either voted against or abstained on the measure. The scale of the rebellion will have shocked the Prime Minister, and reminded him that his hold over his party is increasingly tenuous. In the not too distant future, he may remember ruefully the cruel words he once levelled at a tired and greying Tony Blair – “You were the future once!”
Many have also been mystified by the proposal – which had never featured in the Conservative manifesto. While manifestos should not be regarded in the same light as government programmes, they are nevertheless gauges of party disposition and are supposed to indicate directions of travel. Furthermore, there was no public clamour for this proposal, and many homosexuals were wholly indifferent, realizing that civil partnerships (which everyone now accepts) provide all the necessary legal rights for couples of whichever sex.
Granting Parliamentary time to this unwanted and essentially pointless measure when there are all kinds of important issues requiring urgent attention smacks of obsession. The Conservatives have traditionally been relied upon to fix the economy after every Labour government, and their (arguably overstated) reputation for unsentimental economic efficiency is their chief electoral strength. They would do better, for themselves as well as us, to concentrate their energies on trying to lift the economy out of the mire.
The Conservatives have also traditionally been regarded as the party of “commonsense” and plain speaking, and the least likely of the two main parties to engage in hysteria or gesture politics. Politics-watchers have become accustomed to seeing incoming Tory administrations quietly carrying on the politically correct policies they fiercely denounced whilst in opposition – but it is unusually disheartening to see them initiating such policies, let alone prosecuting them with inquisitorial zeal.
So what has brought on this peculiar preoccupation? Some provincial Tories still grumble about an alleged “gay mafia” dominating the “Notting Hill set”, but that is off the mark, because it means ascribing a corporate personality to a diverse and divided (and in any case tiny) group.
If it is intended as a sop to Liberal Democrats, or as a diversion to take hostile attention away from the “hardline” policies allegedly being carried on in welfare or education or on Europe, then it will not suffice. The egalitarian mindset is an irrational and insatiable one, and acceding to any part of its impossible programme merely whets activists’ appetite for yet more concessions and inversions. (We have already seen a Labour MP calling for a change in the law of succession so that a monarch can have a homosexual partner with constitutional as well as civil rights.) There has never been an egalitarian society in any period of the world’s history, or in any culture or civilization, and yet such minor details are never permitted to obtrude on this perennial mania.
The obvious, if unpalatable, answer is that this policy is merely the latest manifestation of a generic PC neurosis of the kind that for about forty years has prevented the Conservative hierarchy from rolling back leftist legislation, or taking meaningful action on such matters as Europe or immigration – notwithstanding election promises, or the sincere desire of many of their elected representatives and those who campaign to get those representatives elected. The earnest wish never to be again thought of as “the nasty party” has mutated into a psychological (and frankly sycophantic) need to be seen as always “nice”.
That ultra-Left thinking should have sunk such taproots into the top layer of the Conservative Party reveals the tragic inadequacies of Tory thinking, in particular the much-vaunted “non-ideological” approach to what has always been, after all, a war of ideas. The Conservatives have for too long borrowed the other side’s assumptions and terminology rather than formulating their own, to the extent that what is still mainstream public opinion is almost never reflected in political outcomes. It also shows how unprofessional and undisciplined traditionalists have always been as a group – if indeed, you can even call them a “group”, because they appear unable to work together in any systematic way, or over protracted periods.
This bill will get a rough handling in the Lords, and it may even get defeated or thrown out on some technical grounds (this might even be Cameron’s secret hope). And even if it is passed, it will make little or no substantive difference to society, for good or ill. Whatever happens, when all the fuss dies down one salient fact will stay – the most senior Tories in the land are in thrall to an ideology that is not only inveterately anti-Tory but also profoundly anti-society. Derek Turner, 7th February 2013