08:21 Wednesday 6th February 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[P]AUL STAINTON: David Cameron’s plans to legalise gay marriage have overwhelmingly been approved in the Commons last night. But at what cost to him? More Conservatives opposed the idea than supported it, and the measure only went through with the help of Labour and the LibDems. So what does it mean for the Prime Minister? Is he holed beneath the waterline? Well Andrew Gilbert is a Principal Lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University studying the Conservative Party as part of his PhD. So, is he a sunken ship? Is he an injured soldier? What’s going on here?
ANDREW GILBERT: Well I think to use another metaphor, if we imagine that Cameron’s relationship with his party, parliamentary party and the voluntary party in the country is a bit like a marriage, them I think after last night’s vote they probably spent the night in spare bedrooms. I don’t think that means that .. he’s not in any way fatally wounded. I don’t think his authority is as you put it holed below the waterline. But clearly this isn’t how he wanted it to be. This is not the image he wanted the country to wake up to this morning, of a party divided. But nevertheless he still got what he wanted. I think though this is a different issue to one like Europe. Europe is as you know an ongoing big political issue for British Prime Ministers. It’s not going to go away. There’ll always be votes, there’ll always be Bills. But this I think is probably going to be a one hit issue. We’re going to have the Bill. It’s probably going to be law. And then it’s probably going to go away.
PAUL STAINTON: Does he feel that strongly about it? Because it wasn’t in the manifesto. He didn’t need to pick a fight with his own party. He must feel incredibly strongly about it surely.
ANDREW GILBERT: It is a curious one, isn’t it. I think clearly a lot of his parliamentary party feel rather confused about it. I think the voluntary party nationally and in Cambridgeshire I know feels like they’re not .. Cameron isn’t necessarily the man they married in 2005, or at least the man they thought they married, as it were. It is odd to know where this has come from. Cameron though, having said that, has always wanted to modernise the Party. He’s always sent very inclusive messages, particularly about gay people and so on. it’s hard to know with Cameron, because he’s not one necessarily to tell us lot about the depths of his ideology, if indeed he really has one.
PAUL STAINTON: Going forward, can they patch things up? Is he likely to face a challenge? Stewart Jackson was on the show earlier. he said no. But there’s been rumblings, hasn’t there?
ANDREW GILBERT: Yes I think there has. But I think if you look back over the history, the recent history of Conservative leaders and when they’ve started to look vulnerable, I think it’s not as a result of one off votes like this in fairly confined issues. I think Paul it’s when the mood changes, when the mood changes irreversibly and the Leader starts looking not like a winner anymore. And I think if that happens, if in two years time for example, in the run up to the next election, Cameron’s looking a bit like a loser, and the economy hasn’t come round positively and so on, then I think he’s going to be vulnerable. But the Conservatives, they are a pragmatic bunch. And I think if there’s one thing that Conservatives that don’t like the idea of gay marriage hate more than the idea of gay marriage, it’s the idea of losing the next election, and waking up after the election in May 2015 in opposition. And I think probably that thought, at the end of the day, they won’t like it. But they’ll get over it.
PAUL STAINTON: Well in the end he was a winner last night, wasn’t he? And that’s they key to it I suppose, with the help of the LibDems and Labour.