Gay marriage must not lead the agenda



00:51 GMT, 13 December 2012

Brave: Cameron believes homosexuals should have the same rights as heterosexuals

Brave: Cameron believes homosexuals should have the same rights as heterosexuals

Let's start with the positive. The Mail unreservedly accepts that David Cameron’s brave stand on gay marriage is based on principle.

He genuinely believes homosexuals should have the same rights as heterosexuals.

But who can he hope to please by the messy compromise outlined this week

It’s easy enough to identify those he has displeased. They include traditionalists, gay and straight, of every major religion – Christian, Jewish and Muslim – baffled by his insistence on redefining an ancient institution, central to their beliefs.

As we reveal today, the Church of England, already tearing itself apart over homosexual priests, has raised deep concerns with Faith Minister Sayeeda Warsi over ‘unintended consequences’ of the new plans.

Will faith schools have to teach that gay and heterosexual marriage are the same And won’t priests risk being taken to court for refusing to marry gay couples

Truly, politicians venture into deep waters when they meddle in religious affairs. Which is why state and church have traditionally been kept separate.

But the really bitter irony is that Mr Cameron’s compromise has succeeded in exasperating supporters of gay marriage.

Indeed, many are bewildered by the idea of allowing it in some churches, while banning it in the Church of England and the (disestablished) Church in Wales.

If it is good enough for Muslims and Catholics (not that they’d permit it), then why not for Anglicans

But if none of this worries Mr Cameron, he should surely be concerned about the effects on his own party.

As activists leave in droves, betrayed by what they see as a deeply unconservative measure, and UKIP rubs its hands in glee, backbenchers are in despair.

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They look at a world in turmoil – a horrendous debt crisis, family incomes squeezed, the eurozone near collapse, tensions rising in Syria and Korea – and they see the Conservative Party staking its future on a matter that is, frankly, irrelevant to most people.

With attitudes changing, the Prime Minister is right to think most voters wish homosexuals well. But he is wrong to believe this is his ‘Clause IV moment’, as important to him as the rejection of nationalisation was to New Labour.

There are much more important issues to engage his considerable talents.

Getting back to work

Though economists are mystified by the trend, this paper draws huge cheer from the biggest quarterly fall in unemployment for more than a decade.

Clearly, George Osborne is right to trust private firms’ ability to create jobs at double the rate of public sector lay-offs.

If this is what can be achieved during a credit squeeze, imagine how fast the economy could recover if the banks faced their responsibility to lend.

A cautionary tale

The Mail congratulates the Daily Telegraph on its courage in publishing a story about the misuse of expenses by the very minister charged with deciding how the Press is to be regulated.

In words whose meaning was all too clear, a special adviser said she wanted to ‘flag up’ Maria Miller’s involvement with press regulation before the paper revealed the Media Secretary had claimed 90,000 for a home where her parents also lived. Later, it is claimed, Number 10’s press officer made a similar veiled threat.

This paper believes Mrs Miller is a well-intentioned and decent, if inexperienced minister, who was wrong to complain that the paper had spoken to her father.

But could any cameo more graphically expose the danger of giving politicians a say in controlling newspapers

Indeed, this illuminating story utterly vindicates Mr Cameron’s principled stand against statutory regulation of the Press.