Last month, David Cameron faced the largest rebellion in his party's recent history over the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act. Despite his enthusiastic approach, more Conservative MPs voted against the bill than for it, by 139 to 132. This huge division signals that despite Cameron's best efforts to modernise what was once described as the 'Nasty Party', the Tories stand perpetually in the dark a-midst a more and more liberal country.
The fight for Equal marriage very much signals the same battle for the rights of minorities in the 60s, with David Lammy, Labour MP noting "'Separate but equal' is a fraud. "Separate but equal" is the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus."
This startlingly accurate speech was then followed by a Tory MP continuing his attempts to speak of the danger of redefining marriage and other such arguments that have, up till now, proven merely invalid and untrue. (It also may be noted that the lack of empathy for this argument is a product of the lack of minorities in the party, too)
The arguments of the 139 rebellious Tories indicate desperation to cling on to a past that is all but lost in the shadow of the socially liberal 21st Century.
The same can be said for the Gender politics of the party. Recently Cameron was accused of filling his cabinet with white, male, Eton buddies from the good ol' days of public schooling, avoiding recognising the gender imbalance that characterises UK politics. Just 16% of Tory MPs are women. Even worse, who can forget when he told Angela Eagle, MP, to "Calm down, dear!", invalidating her opinion as some sort of symptom of female frustration and in doing so exposing the misogyny of the party.
It isn't just social politics either. The economics of the indifferent George Osborne are without a doubt not in touch with the wider population. The exemption of taxes for the rich - a recent cut of £100,000 for those earning over £1 million- while pushing for a 'Bedroom tax' for those with a spare bedroom and the continuous cutting of benefits, particularly that of the disabled, seems to mirror Reaganomics and Thatcherism more so than any modern credible alternative. Such conservative financial values erode ferociously at the welfare state and merely revisits policies that have already been proven not to work. The haunt of European cut backs and the historic downgrading of Britain's credit rating casts a shadow over the logic of continuing such erosive policies, and yet the Tories keep pushing the poorest down, whilst supporting the Lords, Barons and Estate owners of the land. Their dangerous rhetoric on setting apart the scroungers and strivers only enhances the centuries old divide between rich and poor.
In the United States, the Republicans similar lack of adaptability - punishing the poor, non-white, non-straight and female - cost them the 2012 election which should have by all accounts been theirs for the taking. The rising Latino and African-American vote, and the surging levels of poverty, means they must face up the realities of modernisation or die as a party. The same warning must surely, too, be given to the British Conservatives. Whilst the fact a Conservative PM and 132 of his peers were more than happy to fight for equal marriage suggests British conservatism isn't quite as out of date as its American counterpart, the margin between the Conservatives and the UK's two other leading parties is nevertheless substantial. It could be suggested that whilst the Republicans are stuck in 1850, the Conservative Party are stuck in 1950. Better, but neither are fitting for the modern landscape.
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