Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Tories: it's the rockers vs the mods.

My latest for The Guardian:

The party of section 28 may soon be the party that legalised gay marriage. And deep in the Tory soul, there is a revolt at the very idea. Gay marriage? Over their straight, white, well-fed bodies. At least 100 Tory rebels will oppose the inevitable change.
Is this merely quixotic? Is the Tory right so bigoted that it will sacrifice the party's future success by tearing it apart over this issue? A new book, published by the Tory pressure group Bright Blue, contains a foreword from former cabinet secretary Francis Maude arguing precisely this. "If our social attitudes are seen as backward looking," he warns, "we will be unelectable."
At an ideological level, this represents a battle between two wings of Thatcherism – the "mods" and the "rockers" as they were dubbed in the 1980s. The mods are market-oriented social liberals, the rockers traditional authoritarians. Politically, though, the fight is between those who want to make the Tories adequate as a modern, electable party of business, and those who think they can return to business as usual and rely on the "instincts of the British people" to keep them in power. This is why many whose past is traditionally reactionary are now on the side of reform.