Project Cameron RIP: more Tory MPs vote AGAINST than vote for equal marriage

David Cameron deserves a lot of credit for the stance he’s taken on equal marriage. But in addition to the principle, there was also calculation: he wanted to project an image of a modern Tory party, at ease with the the society it seeks to represent.

Unfortunately for him he didn’t quite reckon on his party’s entrenched opposition to equality for minorities, with today’s Commons vote splitting his party. In the end, more Tory MPs voted against equal marriage than voted in favour of it:

Tories sometimes wonder why they fail to appeal widely to black and ethnic minority voters, even those who are small-c conservatives. The legacy of Enoch Powell taints their party still, they concede. Next time they wonder why the LGBT community’s disinclined to vote for them, Tories might want to reflect on the long-term damage today’s vote has done their party.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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26 Comments

  • Helen Tedcastle 5th Feb '13 - 8:19pm

    “equality for minorities”

    As was brought out in the debate, this issue is not about equal rights, it’s about the meaning and redefining of a word to describe a particular relationship.

    Also, it’s about status and perception – not rights.

    Furthermore, the patronising Labour MP who said this is a generational issue i.e: its the older and wiser members of the population favour keeping the definition of marriage – not necessarily. I for one am the same age as David Cameron – it’s not a question of age or closet ageism. Typical Labour.

  • Helen Tadcastle ” it’s not a question of age or closet ageism”

    Our teenage children have three school friends who come from same-sex parents. None of their peers think this is in any way remarkable, they just accept it for what it is, just as some kids come have divorced parents and just as our kids are mixed race. We’re all different as individuals, and we have different backgrounds but at the end of the day we all belong to the Human Race.

  • Helen Tedcastle 5th Feb '13 - 8:33pm

    @ Phyllis – of course we’re all human. I have gay friends and family. I know young people who are gay. I am for equal rights. I am for civil partnerships and civil unions. I am unhappy with the Bill because it redefines the word marriage.

  • Helen I was actually making the point that there is a generation of young people now at school who come from same-sex families which there wasn’t when we were young. No-one at our children’s school thinks anything of it. So it’s not surprising if there is a generational gap.

    This is from Twitter:

    @tnewtondunn: Gay marriage? It’s an age thing. Our YouGov ystdy – 80% of 18-24 year olds back it, but only 31% of over 60s do. Tory MPs same.

  • Helen ” I know young people who are gay”

    But do you know any offspring of same-sex couples? If you did, I think you may be reassured that they come from perfectly ordinary families.

  • “this issue is not about equal rights”

    Well really Helen I honestly don’t see how you can say that with a straight face – you must know that gay women cannot claim ‘marital coercion’ if they are in only in a civil partnership ;)

    Thank goodness this unfairness is now to be stamped out.

  • On the BBC Website they have some quotes from the debate. Strangely it is one from a Tory (Nick Herbert) that I think answers the redefinition point so well…

    “If marriage hadn’t been re-defined in 1836, there wouldn’t be any civil marriages; if it hadn’t been re-defined in 1949, under 16-year-olds would still be able to get married; if it hadn’t been re-defined in 1969, we wouldn’t have today’s divorce laws – and all of these changes were opposed. I know that the signal we send today about whether the law fully recognises the place of gay people in our society will really matter. Above all, I think of two people, faithful and loving, who simply want their commitment to be recognised, as it is for straight couples, and that in the end is what this bill is about.”

  • Tories sometimes wonder why they fail to appeal widely to black and ethnic minority voters, even those who are small-c conservatives. The legacy of Enoch Powell taints their party still, they concede. Next time they wonder why the LGBT community’s disinclined to vote for them, Tories might want to reflect on the long-term damage today’s vote has done their party

    So for consistency wll you be also be applying these sentiments to the Lib Dem MP’s and Labour who didn’t vote yes tonight? or conveniently went missing? Although agreeing with gay marriage I found these comment a pretty cheap shot.

  • “if it hadn’t been re-defined in 1949, under 16-year-olds would still be able to get married”

    It was actually the Age of Marriage Act 1929, but it’s a very good point.

    According to the sacred traditional British conception of marriage – which we’ve been told parliament has no right to interfere with – it wasn’t necessarily the union of a man and a woman. It could legally be the union of a boy of 14 and a girl of 12, and that was still the case within living memory.

  • Stuart Mitchell 5th Feb '13 - 10:11pm

    Phyllis:
    “Do you know any offspring of same-sex couples?”

    I hate to be pedantic, but while there are no doubt many same-sex couples who are excellent parents, there are no “offspring of same-sex couples”.

  • John Broggio 5th Feb '13 - 10:20pm

    @ Stuart Mitchell

    That might be true now but sooner rather than later, it will no longer be the case: http://www.advocate.com/health/health-news/2012/10/05/fertility-research-opens-possibilities-gay-and-lesbian-couples

  • Actually, some credit where it’s due – David Cameron got over half of the Tories to either support or not vote against a socially liberal policy which he chose to highlight. I’d say that would have been unthinkable 5 years ago, never mind 10.

    I also never thought that even 4 LDs would vote against such a measure.

  • I think we should at least wait for explanations from those you accuse of ‘conveniently’ going missing, peebee. Apparently one was giving birth!

  • Rachel Perry 6th Feb '13 - 1:44am

    Redefines marriage for whom? I have never thought of marriage as necessarily consisting of a man and a woman. Same sex marriage has existed for centuries in other cultures. The wording of the church marriage service does not specify it must be between a man and a woman. This specification only came into existence when civil marriages were brought in and marriage was around a long time before that. In any case, that’s like saying that allowing Women or Black people to vote is changing the definition of the word ‘Democracy’.

  • Allowing people who were formerly barred from voting by sex or race or religion does indeed change the content of the word “democracy”. But it does so by making it broader and better and more like what democracy should be. And the same can be true for marriage. I am surprised that some people simply assume that a change, because it is a change, must be bad and regrettable.

  • “Have you considered the possibility that some of them would like a three-way incestuous marriage and feel cheated that they can’t?”

    I can’t help wondering whether any venerable knights of the shires protested in 1929 against the removal of their inalienable right, enshrined by centuries of Christian tradition, to marry 12-year-old girls.

  • It seems that as late as 1885 there was “strong” opposition to an Act making it illegal to have sexual intercourse with girls between 13 and 15 (outside marriage, of course):
    “The offence of “unlawful carnal knowledge” of a girl of 13 but under 16 was introduced by the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 in response to a campaign against child brothels and trafficking in young girls, famously championed by W T Stead in The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon – the Report of the Pall Mall Gazette’s Secret Commission. Dr Cretney reports, at p 59, footnote 147, that “the Act was strongly opposed, much of the opposition based on fears that no man with young sons would be able safely to employ girls under 16 as domestic servants”, though he does not say whether this was because of fear that the normal activities to be expected of the young men of the house would now land them in trouble or because of a fear of unjust accusations.”
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200304/ldjudgmt/jd041014/j-3.htm

  • Stuart Mitchell 6th Feb '13 - 8:03pm

    @Dave – you’ve got me there. Though I’ll be amazed if the three families Phyllis refers to fall in to that category.

  • Stuart Mitchell

    If you mean the children who are not the ‘fruit of the loins’ of their same sex parents, well you are right. They have one biological parent, not two. However we have one child who has two heterosexual, biological parents whose mum then fell in love with another woman and they have now been together for several years. This child and all his friends, think nothing of the fact that half the week is spent with ‘dad’ and the other half with ‘mum and partner’ . Interestingly, ‘dad’ was adopted and knows nothing of his own biological parents. In this he is less fortunate than many children of SSMwho at least know one biological parent. Nothing to do with human relationships is ever simple ;)

  • …but yes I walked right into that ;)

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Feb '13 - 11:13am

    jedibeeftrix

    I am willing to bet a week’s wages (be warned: that is not much money) that 95 per cent of the population fall into the “meh” category.”

    Yup, that was the position I was in. It seemed to me that with civil partnership established, the arguments on both sides were purely symbolic. Given that most people were already informally calling civil partnership “gay marriage” I could not see the point in forcing the issue, rather let it settle, let the distinction become no more than a tick on the form, one box for same-sex, the other box for different sex. Those on the pro side condemn the obsessiveness of those on the anti side on gay issues, but I suspect for most of the population it’s the obsessiveness of the political class on these issues which is weird.

    I’m interested in the extent to which the argument “We must call the same sex relationship ‘marriage’ and make it legally exactly such, in order for it to be recognised abroad” works. Are we really able to change by our legislation what other cultures deem to be “marriage”? The points put about the union of a boy of 14 and a girl of 12 illustrate this. There are other countries where this is still legally “marriage”. To what extent would be willing to defend it as such if such a couple were brought to this country? What if some tax haven were to devise for itself some strange definition of “marriage”, say between a man and his child, in reality to enable dodging of inheritance tax? Would we uphold it?

    Stephen does rather give the game away when he writes:

    David Cameron deserves a lot of credit for the stance he’s taken on equal marriage. But in addition to the principle, there was also calculation: he wanted to project an image of a modern Tory party, at ease with the the society it seeks to represent.

    It very much makes it look like there was a cynical political calculation behind pushing this issue. It was all about making a party which has moved ever more to the extreme right on economic issues disguising itself as “moderate” and giving the impression it had somehow moved leftward, by adopting some token social liberal issue that actually costs nothing so is not in conflict with its economic extremism. Then wind people up by insisting if you don’t agree with it, you must be homophobic. I actually wonder if past generations of gay people would have thought the line “you are only of equal worth if you ape heterosexuals by calling your relationship ‘marriage’ with all its historical baggage” to be homophobic.

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