We banged on doors, cold-called strangers and delivered thousands of leaflets for this? A government that regards reform of our relationship within the European Union a distraction and that is content to submit to the jurisdiction of foreign courts on matters of liberty (mis-branded "human rights"), but finds it has plenty of time and political capital available to introduce fixed-term Parliaments, a referendum on abandoning our (very successful) electoral system, abolishing marriage in favour of civil-partnerships-for-all and now abolishing the House of Lords in favour of a PR-elected second chamber?
I've spent much of my adult life campaigning precisely against many of the key constutitional measures the government considers a priority and in favour of precisely the things it wants to ignore. And yet despite this, I and other Conservatives are expected to toddle meekly along and do our bit for the Party. And when some of us – some of the best of us; certainly better folk than I - decide they might contemplate voting for another Party (UKIP) which if not really Conservative as such is at least not as transparently anti-Conservative as our Coalition, they are dismissed as fruitcakes and swivel-eyed fanatics?
Can anyone really explain (let alone defend) the House of Lords abolition plans in Conservative political management terms? Set aside for a moment embarrassing notions like "Conservative principles" (what fool would expect anyone in our Party to have any of those?). Are these proposals supposed to be popular with someone? Apparently 6% of voters regard any sort of Lords reform as a priority. And as for electing the Lords by PR? Which bit of "68% said No to electoral reform in a referendum" wasn't clear? How is that issue not dead for the next zillion "long-time-in-politics weeks"?
Is the idea supposed to be that we need to keep the Lib Dems happy? Why? What are they going to do? Their own president – Tim Farron – said on Question Time this week that if the Conservatives had run a minority government from May 2010 they'd have won a large majority in an October 2010 General Election. Do we think they'd expect the Lib Dems to do any better by triggering an Election now (even if they were capable of achieving that – which they aren't) when they even trail UKIP in national polls? Three quarters, at least, of the Lib Dem frontbenchers wouldn't abandon their government jobs even if the Coalition formally ended, and a number of Lib Dem backbenchers would stay, also. The Lib Dem have no cards. There is no gain to the Conservative Party in placating them.
What does the government think it is trying to achieve with the gay marriage proposals – a misnomer for the proposal to abolish state recognition of marriage and replace it with civil partnerships for everyone? I've said I see no particular problem with that in principle, but what's the point when homosexuals commonly refer to their civil partnerships as "marriages" and their ceremonies as "weddings" anyway? The only point or purpose appears to be that some homosexals feel it really matters what legal term is used to define their relationships and status. I say they shouldn't much care about that, but they say they do.
But note that in order to achieve "equal marriage" what will be required is this:
- we abolish state recognition of marriage as traditionally understood, since that is a relationship that intrinsically involves male-female sexual consummation
- we introduce civil partnerships for heterosexuals, renaming all civil partnerships "state marriages"
- we remove the concepts of "husband and wife" from all legislation, replacing it with "civil partner A" and "civil partner B" and the concepts of "mother and father" replacing them with "Parent 1" and "Parent 2"
At the end of this procedure, we then have gay couples having the same legal terms describing their relationships as do straight couples. But to achieve this we have changed the legal status of straight couples from "husband and wife" and "mother and father" to some other things. Now I shall say: it doesn't really matter how you are described in the law. Just socially describe yourselves as "husband and wife" and "mother and father" and be content – does it really matter? But of course the advocates of the change cannot say this. In their view it is absolutely vital how one is described by the law. So their only response can be: "Your loss of legal "husband and wife" and "mother and father" status is much much less important than the gain of equal treatment for all in legal descriptions". And note that it must be much much less, here, because we are talking about redefining the relationships of 98.5% of legally-combined couples for the convenience of (the objecting subset of) 1.5% of legally-combined couples.
Unlike Lords reform, which is fundamentally wrong, I've no objection to abolishing state recognition of marriage in favour of civil parterships for all, but how is that a priority? And even though it might be unobjectionable (if pointless) it certainly isn't going to be popular and it would be a challenge for even my (not-unpracticed) advocacy skills to characterise a proposal to abolish state recognition of marriage as "Conservative".
Meanwhile, more than 80% of the population disagreed with the Lisbon Treaty and the Conservatives ran at three General Elections in a row promising to renegotiate our relationship within the EU, having opposed ratification of the previous three Treaties (Amsterdam, Nice, Lisbon), but seeking any kind of repatriation of powers from the EU is no priority at all. Foreign courts tell us who can vote in General Elections or whether we can deport those we regard as threats to national security (but think it's fine if we have house arrest without charge), but changing that is no priority at all.
We languish ten and more points behind in the opinion polls, despite Labour's apparently having someone's gaffe-laden slapstick comedy sidekick accidentally inherit the role of leader – presumably by much the same procedure (slightly the wrong name being overheard) that got Guy Coma his famous BBC interview. Some of this is surely related to the government's lack of any prioritisation or urgency about a growth agenda for the economy or a sense of the prosperity priorities of struggling families in difficult economic times, but that is itself surely not unrelated to the Coalition's own wierd anti-Conservative priorities. There are only so many hours in the day. The more you spend on Lords Reform and gay marriage, the less you have for promoting growth and repatriating powers from the EU.
Given that there can't really be any political upside for the government in its pressing these things, and no necessity related to its relationship with the Lib Dems, one is left unable to draw any conclusion other than that this stuff is really what the government believes in and believes to be important. What else can one conclude other than that the government really does consider it more right and more important to introduce an all-PR-elected House of Lords than to repatriate powers from the EU?