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Cameron’s gay marriage tactics were right

John Rentoul

gaym 300x188 Camerons gay marriage tactics were rightEveryone, except Atul Hatwal, David Cameron and me, seems to think that the Prime Minister “got the politics of the Same Sex Marriage Bill wrong“ in failing to come to the Commons yesterday to lead the fight for it in person.

On a mirror-image issue, it is said, Tony Blair would have gone into the lion’s den and persuaded it of the merits of vegetarianism, winning plaudits all round for at least standing up for his convictions.

Well, if Cameron had done that, the commentariat would no doubt have pointed out how self-defeating it was for Blair to appear to relish provoking his party so much. It helped to define him in the voters’ mind as a centrist, but at the price of diminishing the reserves of support in the parliamentary Labour Party.

If Cameron had made a brilliant speech in the Commons yesterday appealing to his MPs not to make themselves look old-fashioned, what good would it have done? It would hardly have affected the vote itself, which was won easily. He might have avoided the embarrassment of having more of his MPs vote with him than against him, which, at 136 to 127, would have required five to switch sides.

But he would have annoyed the antis more, while the pros know which side he is on anyway, and, as Hatwal points out, so do the voters, especially the ones for whom this has a positive symbolic association.

Not only was it sensible to take a low profile yesterday, I would say that Cameron gained more by bringing it to a vote early, despite advertising the Tories as an unlovely and divided party.

As for the reports exaggerated by a few antis of people leaving local Conservative associations in droves, that can only have the immeasurable benefit for Cameron of presenting the Tories at last as the sort of party a normal person might want to join.

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  • Sculptor471

    Is Westminster politics heading towards a re-alignment of the parties?

    It happened in the1980s with the SDP – but didn’t stick. It seems possible that everyone would be better served if people belonged to smaller parties with better integration of their aims. The voters could also express their support in a more nuanced way.

    The major parties would presumably split – each into two or three roughly equal parts. The Churches could put up their own candidates and show they have a mandate if they are elected on that ticket.

    Coalitions would be normal like many of Europe’s democracies. No doubt PR would be needed to ensure a commensurate outcome for all parties.

  • Graeme Harrison

    Brilliant: first past the post and, let’s say for the sake of argument, 10 candidates would mean that an MP could be elected on 10% + 1 of the popular vote.

  • Sculptor471

    With FPTP many marginal seats are currently decided by less than 10% of the voters – usually swing voters.

    It would be interesting to see how the candidates would differentiate themselves for the general public – rather than just ticking boxes for their party selection committee. I’m sure many party voters would often have preferred a different candidate than that chosen by their local association.

    A system of PR with STV would probably be needed. That would allow voters to grade the candidates that were acceptable to their views. However that would need a damascene conversion of the political establishment.

  • reformist lickspittle

    Yes, both Hatwaddle and your good self are wrong. As usual :-)

  • http://twitter.com/NO_GOD_LGBT NO GOD = LGBT RIGHTS

    I cant wait for the day when all Muslim countries they allow same sex marriages!!! We will never need to go to war!!!

  • http://twitter.com/NO_GOD_LGBT NO GOD = LGBT RIGHTS

    Institutions above human rights!? Which do you value more ???

  • http://twitter.com/NO_GOD_LGBT NO GOD = LGBT RIGHTS

    Institutions 0 vs Human rights 1

  • http://twitter.com/NO_GOD_LGBT NO GOD = LGBT RIGHTS

    THIS EQUAL MARRIAGE BILL IS LIKE GIVING YOUR SON A NEW CAR AT 21 BUT LOCKING IT AWAY IN THE GARAGE FOREVER!

  • http://twitter.com/NO_GOD_LGBT NO GOD = LGBT RIGHTS

    Twitter is the sigh of the oppressed gay creature, the heart of a heartless religious world, and the soul of soulless conditions.


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