A majority of 225 is probably the highest the government has ever achieved at the end of a Second Reading debate. And yet it doesn’t feel like that, does it? And it certainly won’t in Number 10 today. I can’t for a moment imagine that the champagne corks were popping last night. The fact that more Conservative MPs voted against equal marriage than voted for demonstrates that it was hardly a Clause 4 moment for Tory modernisers. Indeed, as Margot James so eloquently said (at least, I think it was her), the Tory modernisation project has some way to go. But the House of Commons spoke, and the Bill progresses. I have little doubt that it will pass into law, but it does need some radical amendments. Some weeks ago I described it as a Dog’s Breakfast, and something which actually does the opposite of what it sets out to. It actually enshrines inequality in law in several pernicious ways, and the clauses about religious freedom need some alteration too.
The debate was actually quite good. I’m bloody glad I don’t live in Northern Ireland though, if the attitudes displayed by various DUP MPs are anything to go by. Bloody hell. But on the plus sides there were some fantastic speeches in favour of the bill. I think Mike Freer (pictured), Stephen Gilbert, Sarah Wollaston, Nick Herbert and Margot James were the pick of the bunch. The least said about Messers Howarth, Chope and Leigh the better. Still, at least we can be grateful that Chris Chope avoided repeating his description of the Civil Partnership Act in 2004 as a “bugger’s muddle”. Idiot.
Last evening, we spent two hours discussing the vote on my LBC show. It proved to be quite an evening, with the highest caller volume of the year so far. One call in particular provoked dozens of others to call in. Mosad from Wembley proclaimed that homosexuality was a choice. I begged to differ and told him that you’re either born gay or you’re not, and to take it from one who knows. I then found myself baring more of my soul than I had ever intended, and went into details of my private life that I would never have normally shared on the airwaves. But, hey, it was great radio and I got the feeling I made Mosad re-evaluate some of his views. And that’s what it’s all about.
I have to say, I am glad it’s over. I’m almost fed up talking and writing about it. So I won’t do either for the foreseeable future, you’ll be pleased to hear.