Friday, 26 June 2015

The Value of Nothing?

Well, no, actually. I do not agree with the values of the people who delivered an unexpected Conservative overall majority this year. But they undeniably have them.

That majority is not despite the record of David Cameron during the last Parliament. It is because if that record. Cameron had done much of which his party's supporters approved, and nothing of which they disapproved.

In particular, by enacting same-sex marriage, which was the editorial policy of the Daily Telegraph 18 years ago when Tony Blair was ruling it out from the Despatch Box, Cameron did not only consolidate the Conservative vote.

He expanded it, by giving considerable numbers of people who agreed with him economically a sense of permission to vote for his party. Thus was victory secured.

I opposed the same-sex marriage legislation, but there is no point pretending that any substantial section of public opinion did. And what there was, was overwhelmingly Labour-voting.

Probably half of opponents were Muslims, probably half of the rest were in the Evangelical churches, more of which will have been black-majority than anything else, and very few of which in Britain correspond to the American Religious Right; Stephen Timms, Gavin Shuker and Tim Farron are quite typical of our white Evangelicals.

Beyond that were Sikhs, and Hindus (the only mostly Conservative-voting part of this body, and a very small proportion of the population even if they had all been against same-sex marriage), and around one fifth of practising Catholics.

That last is a figure of well under 200,000 people, in a country of well over 64 million. It is worth noting that to have fewer than a million weekly attendees is still to have the most of any religious organisation in this country.

But then, the social liberalisations of the late 1960s were not unpopular, either. Indeed, they were scarcely noticed even by most MPs, with great majorities simply absent from key votes such as the Second and Third Readings of the legislation on abortion and homosexuality, both, like the rest, passed by enormous cross-party majorities of those who did go through the Division Lobbies. It would be interesting to investigate how much media coverage any of it received.

At least until the foundation of the SDP, Roy Jenkins's time as Home Secretary was barely remembered, with friend and foe alike seeing his reputation as based on his time as Chancellor, followed by his role in the 1975 referendum on Europe.

He very nearly won Warrington, he did win Glasgow Hillhead twice, and he came closing to doing so a third time, in the days when the Catholicism of the North West of England and of the West of Scotland really was still dyed in the wool and bred in the bone. But those were simply not the issues. Meanwhile, most largely or heavily Catholic areas continued to vote solidly Labour, as most of those in England and Wales still do.

(Curiously enough, Jenkins's country house at East Hendred in Oxfordshire had also been a centre of Recusancy, the influence of which around it remains evident to this day.)

I am not saying that such an approach was correct. But these cannot be gainsaid as the facts. When Andy Burnham, who is not a candidate for Pope, expresses himself in favour of same-sex marriage, then he is expressing the view of most practising Catholics in this country. They are wrong. But that is the reality.

Still, like the rest of us, they are highly unlikely to agree with David Cameron economically. So, like the rest of us, they did not vote for his party.

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