Why 'move on' won't wash over same-sex marriage

Published 05 April 2014  |  
PA

Such is the huge social pressure now for accepting same-sex marriage that even its erstwhile parliamentary critics are telling voters to move on. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond claims that now Parliament has made its decision opponents of same-sex marriage will 'get used to it'; the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has conceded that Parliament has "spoken very clearly and we accept that and that's right and proper".

But here is why "move on" is a message socially conservative voters are not going to heed. First, a personal political recollection.

In 1986, when the Westland crisis hit Mrs Thatcher's Second Administration, I, then aged 21, had a vigorous political debate with a friend who later became a Conservative parliamentary candidate. I argued with passionate conviction that the political contoversy over the takeover of the Westland helicopter firm producing the resignation of one of Mr Hammond's predecessors, Michael Heseltine, would be a major issue at the next General Election, which fell in 1987.

It was so serious it could see the 'exocetting' of Mrs Thatcher by the voters with her falling from the sky like, well, a Harrier jumpjet.

He told me Westland would be an electoral irrelevance. The Conservative Government's stewardship of the economy, then in the process of an astonishing recovery, would be the major voting concern.

He was right and I was wrong, which is why I was not cut out to become a politician and he was.

But the difference now with same-sex marriage is the level of disillusionment and even disgust it has caused with the Conservative Party in its natural moral heartland.

For socially conservative voters shaped by Christian values, there used to be a sense that the Conservative Party had a good number of politicians in it who were not particularly comfortable with the permissive society. They had to live with it as politicians facing elections, but they sympathised with our concerns. They seemed to be on our side. For example, in the 1980s Norman Tebbit spoke out against the permissive society. John Redwood in the 1990s raised concerns about the impact of fatherlessness.

We had a perception, despite the 'back-to-basics' debacle under John Major, that at least some leaders in the Conservative Party shared our moral unease with the direction of British society since the 1960s, particularly in the breakdown of the traditional family.

Now it is clear in our minds that the Conservative Party has become a fully paid-up member of the permissive society. That is why we are determined to punish it at the next General Election for redefining what we see as the God-created institution of heterosexual marriage. Indeed I see it as my Christian duty to use my vote to do so.

Some may see that as vindictiveness. After all, many members of the Conservative Party still oppose same-sex marriage and nearly half of its MPs voted against it. But they have not come out from among them. They still belong to the same political party as the men and women who instigated this profoundly anti-Christian change, which was not in the manifesto on which they stood in 2010. So they cannot complain when, God willing, they receive the administration of electoral justice along with those so-called Conservatives who voted for it.

I am very glad my friend (who became a successful merchant banker) exposed my lack of political nous back in the '80s and that I am now serving the Lord Jesus Christ as an Anglican vicar. But I am still a voter, and so I intend to use the privilege and responsibility of my vote not to vote Conservative in 2015.

I hope and - dare I say? - pray that refusing to vote Conservative will help pave the electoral way for a political replacement that will stand up for the freedom to dissent from the dictates of the permissive society. This is particularly important in relation to churches potentially being forced to conduct same-sex 'marriages' and to business people such as those florists, chauffeurs, caterers and photographers who have a conscientious objection to participating in same-sex weddings but are already required to service them.

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