Getting closer, but we're not there yet
SO IT would seem that Britain has become a more socially liberal society. Of course we hope so.
It could well have started with Ben Bradshaw, who is still Member of Parliament, and who fought a very indicative and telling campaign during the 1997 General Election.
Against him, Adrian Rogers standing for the old Conservative right fought an election campaign emphasising what he saw as family values. A set of principles which I have no doubt that he believes in absolutely.
From this sense then we were looking at a candidate who believed in the monogamous marriage of one woman and one man, under the eyes of a very Church Of England God. The very definition of a traditional marriage. And Rodger's and his campaign team believed that the electorate would agree with him.
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However, this would not be the case for Bradshaw won the marginal seat by a good 11,000 majority, which could only mean one thing. Rodgers had sorely misjudged the temperature and the values of the electorate.
And it was not difficult to locate the reasons why Rodgers had lost. For underneath the supposed claims of family values lurked an undertone of homophobia. Rodgers saw himself as not standing against a member of the opposing Labour party, but rather against a candidate who was openly gay.
Only the people of Exeter were more liberal and open minded than he thought and sent Bradshaw to the House of Commons based on the fact of his policies rather than that of his sexuality.
The proof of the pudding was in the ballot box. Devon and the rest of country had become more liberal and accepting.
Taking this and the intervening years in to consideration. It should have been easy to state that at this point the old Tory right wing had begun to whither and die. Their values being dated and outmoded to a early twenty first century society. This is after all the age of Civil Partnership.
Only it would seem that they have not wholly gone away in to the night. The xenophobic nature of the old right has raised its head in the euro-sceptic faction, especially in the form of UKIP, which tend to share a lot of values with the old Tory right.
Also these figures seem as well to be hiding around the backbenches of the more centrist front bench. This can be seen in the vote for the same sex marriage bill which was passed through it's first reading in the Commons last Tuesday.
The numbers were quite simple 400 to 175 against, which means the bill was carried by a majority of 225. Only out of the number which opposed the bill 136 were Conservative. Meaning that even in the Tory party there is still this homophobic element present which should have been snuffed out by now.
Change is always a hard notion to embrace and it is a fact of life that our society has changed through this vote for the better. Yet there are still those who are more than willing to fight a rear guard action. Resistant to any notion of change, presenting a steady challenge to any notion of a fair and equal society.
So what are we going to do with the hard core right of the Conservative party? What are we to do with these homophobes and xenophobes, these little Englanders who seem to hold to the narrow moral values of the mid-Victorian period?
Why are they now so intent on trying to create a new generation of Oscar Wildes?
It seems a shame that over the past century via Ben Bradshaw's election, though to Civil Partnership's, and this historical vote for Same Sex Marriage, that there are still a small, but dwindling cartel of naysayers who cannot accept the fact that sexuality is a morphic quality within humanity.
Not every one takes to a straight line when it comes to sexuality.
And it is the acceptance of this very idea which could easily be the first step of the old Tory right moving away from it's own sense of fear and prejudice of difference in our culture. Is it not better to have a society as a whole rather than one which is fragmented through outmoded ideas?
Therefore we can only hold our hands out and offer them the help they need. The majority who supported this bill can help them understand, and the more liberal society we live in can help them understand. In the end I think we can break though to them and offer them something which, maybe they have never felt before. A movement away from their own prejudices and their old forms of hate.