Metropolitan liberals: we need to reward Dave’s bravery over gay marriage with votes. It’s what Pavlov would do

London Metropolitan University, in Islington: probably full of liberal Tory-haters like me
London Metropolitan University, in Islington: probably full of liberal Tory-haters like me

My fellow Lefty-liberal metropolitan dinner-party people of Islington, it’s time to vote Tory. Or at least to think very seriously about it.

Seriously. The leadership of the Conservative Party has done something remarkable: it has gone further than any Labour government has gone, and pushed for the full enactment of gay marriage. It has done so by ignoring the more unreconstructed parts of its own party, as this morning’s letter from George Osborne, William Hague and Theresa May shows, and at significant risk to its own electability. This is, as far as bien-pensant champagne socialists like me are concerned, a very good thing.

But it won’t, I fear, do them any good, because bien-pensant champagne socialists like me in general would rather chop off our own toes with a hacksaw than vote Tory. Right down deep in our bone marrow, we don’t like the idea.

This is seriously unfortunate, because if the Conservative Party isn’t rewarded for making positive moves, it will have no incentive to make them in future. More than that, the centrist, liberal direction taken by the party elite will be jeopardised: maybe, instead of trying to take votes off Labour and the Lib Dems, the Tories will start trying to get them back off social conservatives who’ve fled to Ukip.

Pavlov would have all sorts of things to say about this. When training an animal or a political party, reward the behaviour you want to see, and punish the behaviour you don’t. We want to see same-sex marriage, and the Tories are doing something to make it happen. Yes, that needs to be weighed against the things that you don’t like – I won’t bother going into those things in any great detail, but I expect I’ll hear the words “Atos” and NHS” a few times. But the equal marriage thing seriously needs to be taken into account: if no metropolitan liberal would ever vote Tory because we think they’re evil, then there is no reason for the Conservative Party ever to make tentative steps towards social liberalism.

Yesterday I got told on Twitter that the Liberal Democrats are exactly as bad as the Vichy government for supporting the Nazi-in-this-analogy Tories, and that Atos was just the Nazi “Aktion T4” murder programme with “better PR”. That’s the sort of stupid thinking that stops any moves into the centre. The Tories aren’t Nazis. They have made a positive, liberal step with the same-sex marriage bill, in an attempt to make themselves more palatable to people like me. If it doesn’t work, they might never do it again, and the whole shift of the political centre ground towards social liberalism might grind to a halt. So. In 2015, if the gay marriage bill goes through and the Tories manage not to destroy everything else too terribly, I might vote for them. If I do, I will do it through gritted teeth and a with distinct sense that I am betraying my family. But it’s what Pavlov would tell me to do.

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