Well, tensions were high, speeches were emotional, and there were tears before bedtime. 2013 is still fairly fresh and new, but it has already been jam-packed with contentious issues, and one or two headaches for the Prime Minister. Last Tuesday night saw the success of the first stage of the Gay Marriage Bill despite many Conservative MPs voting against it. Nevertheless the majority was overwhelming and I was frankly delighted and relieved. It reaffirmed that we do live in a country which still retains a great deal of humility, even if we don’t always see it (and I STILL can’t see what all the fuss was about!). It also meant that I don’t have to resign my party membership, something I had secretly promised myself that I would do if the Bill had been defeated.
Since it has gone through, apparently it has sparked a deluge of resignations from the Tory party, there has been a great deal of grumbling from the grassroots, well from what I can gather, the older generation of the grassroots. These are generally more right-wing members, the die-hard true blues, the extensive volunteer network that the Party really can’t do without. They are the ones who sacrifice countless hours of their time to raise funds, deliver leaflets and go door to door drumming up votes, with the help of us much younger conservatives who are not retired and therefore don’t have the time to dedicate ourselves to the cause as much as they do. At the Party Conference, this group of people (party activists in their late 50s to late 90s) are constantly referred to as they backbone of the party, which indeed they are. Was David Cameron right therefore to push this highly controversial piece of legislation through? Too bloody right he was!!
As one contributor to a forum put it; members are like shareholders and the PM is like the CEO, yes, that’s absolutely true, shareholders don’t run the company the Chief Exec does. David Cameron, for whatever moral arguments about equality might also come into play, needed to remind his party and his grassroots base who runs the country. Cast your mind back a month to the stressful, albeit incredibly successful speech he delivered on Europe. Contentious due to all the waves it caused on the continent and further afield, that was not a speech the Prime Minister wanted to make. He was effectively backed into a corner by many within the party to do so. The speech was as strong as anyone sensible would dare, a clear message was sent to Europe.
Combined with the promised referendum on Europe, the grassroots have also had Chris Grayling’s tougher stance on intruders and the ban on Squatting to feel rather chuffed about. It is clear that policy makers have listened to their views and concerns, however they must understand that some things need to be done for the greater good and that they can’t have it all their own way. David Cameron had to reassert his authority, and since 400 MPs all voted in favour, it allowed the more intransigent dinosaurs within the party to do as their ‘conscience’ (or if I was a cynic, their fear of being deselected, allowed). The fact that the vast majority of the Commons voted for it shows that truly this was done in the national interest and not in the more minor party interest. Even if the Conservative Party lose a few members here and there his credibility as a Prime Minister who can take a moral stance in the face of opposition from his peers, will be much improved. If nothing else, at least the horsemeat scandal has taken the heat of this debate for now and has given the fuddy-duddies (and the rest of us) something else to grumble about!
As a slight aside, if you have not already done so, I would seriously recommend reading Alice Arnold’s charming, and absolutely spot on article on why she will marry Clare Balding
. She puts things better than I can “Children are not born with prejudice, it is society that nurtures it”.