IN the 12 years I’ve been an MEP I have received a lorry load of communication from constituents, asking me to support this and oppose that.
But not one calling for me to support, or indeed oppose, gay marriage.
Why is gay marriage suddenly in the spotlight?
It was in no manifesto. It may be vital to a minority of people, but not to the wider public.
A recent ICM poll reveals that 14 per cent of people thought that the Government should prioritise the issue but 78 per cent felt that it has more important matters to address.
It’s puzzling. Why on earth is David Cameron pushing this so hard? Why has a consultation been launched on the issue?
It is evident that the Government has already made up its mind. As it says: “This consultation is about how the ban can be lifted on same-sex couples having a marriage through a civil ceremony.”
Not making the change is not an option, apparently. Why is he opening a new front in his war against his traditional support?
I bumped into the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell a few days ago. “Why now?” I asked. Smiling, he told me that it was because he had a case going to the European Court of Human Rights. Of course, stupid me, why didn’t I think of that? There just had to be a European angle.
I went off and found it, on Peter’s EqualLove website. My legal advice on his case was this. “The case is well-argued and, knowing the politicisation of the ECHR and its general drift, it is almost definitely going to win.”
Whatever one’s view of the issue, the case they make is well constructed. They have put together a team of complainants to the ECHR, some straight, some gay.
They highlight the difference between banning marriage for gays and civil partnerships for straight couples despite them being to all intents and purposes equal in law.
It has been with the court since last year. The fact that Cameron has suddenly taken up this cause, which has not really been on the horizon at all, suggests that the case is heading towards an imminent hearing and his legal advice is the same as mine.
The last thing he needs at the moment is to have the European courts declare our law discriminatory again and demand it be changed.
It would show him weak and ineffectual.
It would then appear that he was only espousing gay marriage because the court has said so. The Tatchell express has been spotted coming down the tracks and Cameron has decided to get out of its way.
That he is jumping into the path of another train composed of his own core support means nothing to him.
The chief whip is saying that there will be a free vote on this. Maybe so, there was one on prisoner votes after all, but it is meaningless.
For in exactly the same way it doesn’t matter what our politicians say and do, when the European Court rules, we must obey.
In this world where we are governed by the ECHR, one has to ask, is nothing sacred?