How Gay Marriage Accidentally Divorced us from the EU

Thursday, March 30, 2017
Jamie Ross McKenzie
Does anyone remember Maria Hutchings? Poor, poor Maria. She was the lady that suffered the bitterest of defeats at the Eastleigh by-election in 2013. As the Tory candidate, she came third.

Unfortunately for her, she was caught up  (or - more accurately - thrown unprepared into) a whirlwind that had beset British conservatism, what the Bow Group described as a "crisis of conservatism". It was a link of a chain of events which lead to Brexit.

Just a few weeks before, David Cameron's government had pushed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act on Parliament and a majorly opposed Conservative Party. I was still broadly Tory at the time - just - I joined UKIP after Eastleigh. But I remember bitterly how enthused the Cameroons were and how blatant they were in their attacks on any person who showed any sort of concern, be it constitutional, cultural, legal, moral or otherwise.

Their enthusiasm was misplaced. Despite Cameron's protestations that his support was drawn 'because he was a Conservative' - he actually supported and pushed the bill because of potential political difficulties with the EU and its instruments. But whatever his intentions, grassroots true blue conservatives were left dumbfounded and quite at sea.

Some felt betrayed and foolish, they thought Cameron was previously only pretending to be a liberal. Some (such as myself, ironically , as a gay man), had deep moral and cultural reservations. Most, I think, didn't really care about gay marriage. But they still felt that this wasn't what a Conservative government does

They looked at the parliamentary party, an ancient institution which previously held back so many tides, which had argued only decades before using the language of the Rule of Law and the British constitution. They instead saw something unrecognisable: a bunch of Conservative MPs speaking about how they were bullied at school for being gay - a cringeworthy pantomime which was hardly British, let alone conservative.

For those further down on the ground this pantomime left an even more unpleasant taste in their mouths. They were confronted with very real economic problems as the 2008 crisis was only just releasing its grip. Those people saw a decadent elite engaged with something they saw as a small, first-world, decadent issue. Although the similarities between Brexit and Trump have already been laboured, those people were not too dissimilar to the people who chose Trump over Hilary for cultural reasons; they had little patience for people who took transgendered toilets seriously while they themselves were wallowing in rust; while they could perceive a very real national decline and a very real threat to their survival as Americans.

In the UK, these people, let's call them carnivores, had someone waiting in the wings to feed them, of course. In the run up to the local elections that year, and enthused by coming 2nd in Eastleigh  Nigel Farage toured the country. UKIP blasted gay marriage. It painted the conservatives as part of an uninterested, social-democrat elite. Because this was manifestly true, he chucked the carnivores the meat they were starved of. Confirming that local elections are fought on wider, national issues (something UKIP will learn again all too soon), they gained 139 council seats, their first ever major victory in an election fought on FPTP.

Thus began an almost unprecedented gathering of momentum. UKIP rocketed in the polls. The carnivores joined as members. They went on to win the European elections; the first time a party other than the big two had won a national election in over 100 years. Defections and further growth in polls and membership continued long after the gay-marriage debate had been put to bed.

Meanwhile, gay-marriage had produced no momentum for Cameron at all. The people that hated Tories still hated them. They still, without a hint of irony, referred to them as homophobic. In a moment of weakness and fear, with the General Election looming,  he offered the carnivores an appetiser in the form of an EU referendum. Because of matters outside his control, he unfortunately won that election and had to cook and serve that dish.

Slightly crestfallen by the result in 2015, which was, however spun, disappointing for UKIP, the carnivores still had the taste for blood. Indeed, they could smell it. The referendum gave them the opportunity to publicly maul the elite which Cameron embodied. Here was the opportunity for a very real cultural revolution, a chance to completely re-position and reset the British Political class and their values. They were successful in their campaign. They won. Not for a long, long time would those people be so quickly dismissed and attacked in public discourse as they were in early 2013.

So, alas it was that gay marriage caused Brexit. Quod erat demonstrandum. 

For those that think this is far-fetched, they need only look at the natural conclusion of this phenomenon.  They can see this argument confirmed in reverse. We are approaching the end of same 4 -year electoral cycle, as the same seats fought in 2013 are fought again in May. Satisfied that no Conservative Prime Minister would dare defy them again, that indeed to use the modern adage, 'lessons have been learned',  the carnivores are returning back to the fold and Teresa May is timidly feeding them the meat they crave for fear of being eaten herself. 

I would of course caution such meat-eaters. May is no carnivore. In fact, she's an omnivore who'll eat and serve whatever the situation dictates. Sometimes, she's even a detritivore. And she certainly leads a parliamentary party of many herbivores. But whatever diet she's serving, I lament at the fact that it is far more nourishing than the famine offered by UKIP at the moment. There is no meat being served in time for this local election cycle. But I'm convinced this won't continue for long.

Jamie Ross McKenzie is the Chairman of UKIP's Youth Wing, Young Independence