Like Hamlet, Cameron just won't decide
23:52 GMT, 18 December 2012
Modernisation: For every vote the gay marriage policy wins, many more are lost
One of the most misleading words in politics — which is rarely short of them — is ‘modernisation’, a favourite David Cameron theme.
He sees himself as the great moderniser of his party. This means falling in with every passing fad or fancy. It does not occur to him that the terms ‘modernise’ and ‘conservative’ have implied opposites.
This confusion accounts for the weird business of homosexual marriage which grows more ominous by the day for party managers.
Whether Cameron originally had any strong instincts on this issue is very doubtful. But someone persuaded him this was a symbol of modernisation, Chancellor George Osborne being the chief suspect.
For every vote this policy wins, many more are lost. And the defectors are, of course, just the people at party and constituency level which Cameron needs.
Normally, defying the backbenchers might be deemed courageous — if in some grand cause. But to do it on this issue, not in the Tory manifesto or any party literature, just looks inexplicably daft.
There is also a problem which Cameron (or Osborne) has not noticed. With marriage an ultimate blessing, existing civil partnerships will look like half-way houses. Not married yet, eh Why have Peter and Gary not fully tied the knot Perhaps all is not well between them, friends murmur sadly.
All is certainly not well between Cameron and his backbenchers who, reasonably enough, see their own survival as the supreme issue.
Ukip, making its way up the opinion polls, becomes the natural repository for protests votes. It can no longer be dismissed as the party of ‘fruitcakes and closet racists’ as Cameron so charmingly put it in his urge to sound tough.
This once struggling band is now the only party in the land looking forward to by-elections.
The Lib Dems, in particular, face a pretty hopeless future. They were once the party of protest — which was an identity of sorts — but it is hard to see how they will campaign at election time.
Problems: With marriage an ultimate blessing, existing civil partnerships will look like half-way houses
If you think the Coalition Government
deserves another go, you will naturally vote Tory. If you think the
Tories hopeless, you will either vote Labour — or UKIP.
There is no longer a natural constituency for the Lib Dems. Their period of strength through innocence is over.
Soon, rank-and-file Lib Dems will repeat the process of the Thirties coalition break-up, sidling up to government or Opposition party managers to hint they might abandon or modify their label in return for a safety net. ‘National Lib Dems’ might suit — shades of the old National Liberals (effectively Conservatives) of the Thirties.
Meanwhile, Cameron’s position on an EU referendum remains a mystery inside an enigma. He is in favour of a plebiscite if it considers the new terms which he is yet to explain adequately, let alone negotiate.
He will, however, make a Big Speech on this, once promised for the autumn, then the winter, now postponed until after the Twelve Days of Christmas. Hamlet-like, Cameron waits for others to make up his mind for him.
Who would fight for the UK
Outlook: Enoch Powell used to say that inter-racial marriage was essential to smooth out the immigration problem
My old friend Enoch Powell used to say that inter-racial marriage was essential to smooth out the immigration problem.
I wonder what he would have made of the tangled mass of nationalities which the new statistics reveal 14 years after his death.
Some three million immigrants came to Britain in Labour’s last ten years. No doubt Labour calculated that immigrants usually voted for them, so the more the better.
That could be achieved simply by pretending to take the problem seriously but actually doing next to nothing, a policy this Government has done little to reverse.
Comments on the results of the 2011 census have included the claim that the figures have told us who we are. But they do no such thing. They only tell us who we are not.
We are not the old Anglo-Saxon-Normans we once were or even the diluted version which prevailed 50 years ago when the Macmillan government finally accepted we should let in anyone from the Commonwealth. To whom does our new increasingly mixed population owe its allegiance, if any
Norman Tebbit once suggested the Cricket Test — which national team did you cheer on But that is positively frivolous.
The better question is: would you volunteer to fight for the UK if it was threatened Randomly selected inhabitants of Britain might well ask for the question to be translated into Romanian, Urdu or Mongolian before they answered. In another word: No.
Nationhood has been played down as unimportant, not least because of membership of the EU and free movement between its states. Enoch’s other big issue was, of course, the folly of joining.
If ever there was a calculation about which issues the public had been lied to most, it would be hard to choose between immigration and the EU.
How they jeered at the figures in Enoch’s immigration forecasts — on both sides of Parliament. Which side could lie the hardest was never a party issue.