Why Major backs moderniser Cameron on gay marriage

The PM needs serious help if he’s to persuade Tory old-timers that gay marriage is a relevant issue

Column LAST UPDATED AT 11:07 ON Mon 10 Dec 2012

THE grey man has gone pink! Sir John Major, the former Tory prime minister previously known for his 50 shades of grey, has come out today in favour of David Cameron’s pledge to change the law and allow gays to marry in church.

Sir John praised his successor David Cameron for making a "courageous and genuine attempt to offer security and comfort to people who - at present - may be together, yet feel apart."

He added: "We live in the 21st Century and must move on: every couple should have the opportunity and the right to formalise their relationship."

Major’s intervention comes as David Cameron’s modernising tendencies continue to cause ructions among the Tory grassroots where they would 
rather the PM got on with sorting out the economy than listening to his metropolitan pals on issues like gay marriage.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has sought to rally parts of the Cabinet by putting his name to a campaign group dedicated to gay reform of the marriage laws. London Mayor Boris Johnson is also on side. But while traditional Tories might like the two men’s views on education, for example, gay marriage rights are not what most of them signed up for.

The fact that Cameron is calling in help shows he’s on very tricky ground. Cameron finds himself - not for the first time - with the support of Labour and the Liberal Democrats but isolated inside his own party. Tory MP Peter Bone, a long-term critic of Cameron, is not the only one who thinks he is out of tune with his own party.

Cameron, however, believes the Tories must move with the times. They need only to look to America to see what happens when a right-wing party fails to modernise: the Republicans have been marginalised, and may never win power again because they are not relevant to the new majority in the United States.

Today, the PM will be breaking bread with journalists at the Press Gallery Luncheon. His relations with the press are in better shape than ever before - thanks to his continued stand against statutory underpinning for the new press arbitrator – and he will doubtless take the chance to re-emphasise the importance of modernising the party.

But the trouble with social reforms is that they don't do much for the economy. To use one of Sir John Major's favourite phrases, it's all very well promising gay marriage in church - but it "won't butter any parsnips".

It’s likely that when the no-nonsense Aussie spinmeister Lynton Crosby takes over in the New Year, Cameron will be advised to focus on what matters to the majority of voters - jobs, pensions and the economy, stupid.

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Of course Major is wrong as he's ignoring civil partnerships. You have to ask why Cameron is willing to destroy the Conservative party over redefining marriage - or perhaps who is ordering him to do it ? You have to ask because it makes zero sense for his party.