August 23, 2012
By Jacob Combs
The Indepdendent reports today that Michael Ashcroft, a former deputy chairman of the UK’s Conservative Party, has told Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron that he should stand up to those on the far right of his party who oppose marriage equality, arguing that to do otherwise would be even more politically damaging. ”If the Prime Minister were to drop his plans to introduce gay marriage,” Lord Ashcroft said, “he would be unlikely to win many back on the strength of it.”
Intriguingly, Lord Ashcroft’s views aren’t based on speculation, they’re based on polling that he conducted himself–Ashcroft, with a fortune of more than 1 billion pounds, is one of Britain’s wealthiest men. The poll found that 41 percent of respondents favored equal marriage rights, with 27 percent having no opinion. Thirty-one percent opposed marriage equality, but only 12 percent of that group said their vote would be affected by the issue.
Perhaps most importantly, three quarters of the poll’s respondents said the issue would have no impact whatsoever on which party they voted for, and many did not even know that the issue was on the Conservatives’ legislative agenda. ”Ditching gay marriage,” Lord Ashcroft write, “would probably be more likely to put off joiners and considerers – whom we need if we are to win a majority – than it would to win back defectors.”
That point stands in rather stark contradiction to American conservatives, who this week voted for a Republican party platform that is strongly anti-marriage equality and calls for a constitutional amendment banning marriages for gays and lesbians. In addition, the platform committee overwhelmingly (and, according to the Washington Post, noisily) voted down language that would have supported civil unions. Lord Ashcroft’s statements about “joiners and considerers” shows that on gay issues, the Republican party is becoming increasingly a small-tent operation, while in the UK, marriage equality has effectively ceased to be a partisan issue.