Sunday, June 27, 2004
The Irony! The Irony!
The Conservative Party is so narcoleptic in the Commons that's it's easy to overlook the fact it's still in business. Fortunately, things are a little different in the other place. Take the latest move to bring long-term carers under the ambit of the civil partnerships bill.
So you see, consensus politics can work. The L3 have removed what they always claimed was a dreadful unfairness from the law, while we on the Right have defeated what we always think of an injustice. So everyone's happy ? Well, not exactly….
Ministers in the Lords refused to take part in any further debate on the Civil Partnership Bill after peers voted to extend it to other couples, including carers and sisters who lived together.
So what's their problem ?
Labour peer Lord Alli said: "This amendment is ill-conceived and does nothing other than undermine the purpose of the Bill.
"This is not a Bill to do ill. This is about same sex couples whose relationships are clearly different from siblings. These are complex issues."
So complex he can't actually say what his problem is.
Gay lobby group Stonewall says it is "deeply distressed" about the outcome.
The organisation's chief executive, Ben Summerskill, said: "It's a number of years since we have heard peers referring openly to 'unnatural sexual practices' and 'hijacking' of the word gay.
And when he returns from his tangent he may fit in time to tell us exactly what his problem is.
A government source told BBC News Online: "It's clearly a wrecking amendment to progressive legislation. It's very disappointing the Tories want to scupper it."
How exactly would it be scuppered ?
When the L3 max out on the outrage and go light on the facts, it usually means they're up to no good. After all, seemingly since about 1967 we've been bombarded with lachrymose tales of La-La's deprived of the right to see their dying partners in hospital (although the L3 have been strangely reluctant to name names and specify dates). Now the end is in sight, and they drop anchor. What's going on ? It's not like the carers are going to use up all the rights so that Sir Elton will end up hammering on the doors of St Bart's Hospital is it ? Speaking in terms of practical politics, broadening the demographic that will benefit from these changes will only help speed the day when hairdressers are no longer cast out of A & E. But, no, they don't mind being thrown out, just as long as no carers sneak in with them.
Well, actually, it's no kind of mystery at all why exactly the L3 are spitting blood. Non-verifiable reports of ICU ejections to the contra, this Bill was never about rights, it was always about symbolism. It was about establishing La-La relationships as entirely equivalent to marriage in every sense of the word. Hence, the bizarre speech impediment that's suddenly struck the L3. After all, they've spent the last few years calling everyone who pointed this out a bigot. They'll have to leave it about a week before performing a backflip.
Superficial hypocrisy to the contrary, there's actually a deeper hypocrisy here. It's about this: the La-Las want this Bill to be a gay marriage bill, and just a gay marriage bill. It's theirs, all theirs. Never mind that carers are the victims of real injustice, the La-Las don't give a toss. They'll keep a lid on their hatred of heterosexual marriage (for now) and accept equal billing, but they won't let anyone else share the stage. That's the hypocrisy at the centre of it. They're worried about diluting the significance of marriage. They want to redefine an institution that goes back to the dawn of time, then lie down in the road preventing anyone else joining in, lest it be cheapened. In short, when it comes to gays discussing extending benefits to carers, they sound like nothing so much as Conservative family activists. Except for one thing.
Family campaigners base their support for marriage on the belief that it is the best environment for bringing up children. Gay marriage is opposed because it threatens this link. Once we accept that marriage is just a lifestyle choice then the question becomes why should we bother about it ? Indeed, over the last thirty years government has gone from supporting marriage to supporting people with children. Needless to say, government demonstrating it doesn't care whether children are born in or outside of marriage has led the public to feel the same way, with all the fabulous consequences observable in any town today.
But the La-Las ? What have they got to be so precious about ? Every argument in favour of giving gays marriage rights is trumped by the case for giving them to carers. La-Las claim they get a bad deal from the government. Hey, carers have to face the loss of a loved one closely followed by the Government banging on the door shouting 'Get the Hell out of our house'. Non-flying Air Stewards claim that gay marriage will bring about all kinds of abstract social benefits such as 'aiding stability' (whatever that means). There's no such hand-waving when we talk about the social benefits of carers. They save the country billions - they deserve medals, not eviction notices.
There's a certain grim satisfaction in seeing the Gay Wedge endorse our principles, but I don't expect anyone in the media to point that out, just as they won't point out that the target of all this snarling hatred is people who've given up work to care for elderly or sick relatives. Just remember, next time you see a pink activist take out an onion on TV in memory of all those hairdressers thrown off the ward by fascist nurses, that they're perfectly happy to see a fifty-something woman thrown out of her house, rather than share their toys with anyone else.