When it comes to homosexual marriage, the Conservative party not only stands divided, Conservatives themselves are divided, often between their true values and natural instincts, and a quest for the popular vote.
As recently as 2003 David Cameron voted against the repeal of Section 28 and reportedly voted in favour of civil partnerships only after advice on the importance of including gay rights in a third way political reform of the Tory party, by his more naturally liberal leaning wife. His 2010 interview with Gay Times is remembered for his desire and yet inability to agree, rather than his solidarity, with the gay community.
Section 28 itself is well within the living memory of even most young Conservatives, and was actively supported by the vast majority of the party who still look back on the Thatcher government as halcyon days when Conservatism reigned without compromise.
Many will remember the comments of Boris Johnson in his 2001 book, Friends, Voters, Countrymen which attracted widespread criticism from the gay community. In it Johnson states regarding his support of Section 28; “If gay marriage was OK – and I was uncertain on the issue – then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog.”
The Chairman of the Conservative Party Sayeeda Warsi was also accused of homophobia in 2005 by the gay rights group stonewall for criticising reform to the homosexual age of consent.
This recent history of the Conservative Party cannot be explained away as the politics of a bygone era, these are clearly the values that the leaders of our party held before they courted real power and entered into the culture of a political system still ruled by the populism of the Blair years. They are also the values that the grassroots of the party support.
It was equally recently that the Church of England was regularly referred to as the Conservative Party at prayer, a feeling that Cameron tried to recapture in his Oxford speech of 2011 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Sayeeda Warsi’s recent trip to the Vatican further underlined this desire to reconnect both the party and the wider nation to its Christian heritage. It is unsurprising that David Cameron and Sayeeda Warsi have found their message falls flat and that they are under the onslaught of militant secularism; they have already conceded the argument to secularism.
Andrew Lilico’s recent article on Conservative Home underlines why; we are a Christian nation that tolerates other faiths and viewpoints, not a secular nation that accepts all faiths and viewpoints as equal into the heart of our system of government. Christianity, and broadly faith in general, does not present itself as a philosophy or perspective open to compromise, but as an absolute. Many may argue that Britain as a Christian state stands in the way of the progressive agenda and that this element of our constitution should be removed, but the fact remains it has not been removed, we are a Christian nation and at least the majority of Conservatives support that.
Equally the progressive movement which came of age at the beginning of the 21st century has heralded the loss of an identity and the confidence of the West, Britain and the Conservative party itself. The result has not been progress but chaos and schizophrenia, born of populism and an absence of leadership. The leaders of the Conservative movement in the UK, where their American counterparts have resisted, have allowed a media bias to wash over their instincts and true convictions and engaged in the most treacherous form of populism to drag us all with them.
When William Hague famously said of Tony Blair in a Commons address,” when he goes off to a major political conference of a centre right party, and simultaneously refers to himself as a socialist, we know he is on manoeuvres.”
David Cameron can be seen at his side in rapturous laughter. Yet the same could be said of his leadership; one day in defence of the progressive agenda, and the next at the pulpit of the Church of England in defence of traditional Christian values. Against populism and compromise, when David Cameron followed his true instincts in Brussels he, for the first and only time, won the heart of the nation. If he wants to truly capture and define the base of Conservatism and be remembered for more than passing time, he must throw off the shackles of Blair, reconcile the history of the Conservative Party in celebration rather than embarrassment, and say what he really feels.