by Matthew D'Ancona, Telegraph
For the most part, the Coalition has defied sceptics who said it could not work. But beneath the surface, as a new book by Matthew d’Ancona reveals furious rows between ministers threatened to tear it apart – and David Cameron’s support for gay marriage provoked such a backlash he wondered if it was worth the cost
'What they don’t want is to roll up to a church and find Derek and Clive having their wedding”: thus, in a conversation early in 2013, did the Prime Minister explain to his advisers the resistance of Tory party members to same-sex marriage.
The image of Dudley Moore getting married to Peter Cook – the original, awesomely profane Derek and Clive – was an arresting one, and not quite what Cameron had meant. His point was that Conservative activists were generally opposed to gay marriage only if it meant change in their places of worship.
A secular reform could be managed, he believed. As he would later admit to the same colleagues, he had radically underestimated the scale and depth of the hostility in his party to same-sex unions.
After the storm, it was easy to forget that the two governing parties had originally competed for ownership of this legislation. The Lib Dems had wanted to pilot the reform, but Andrew Cooper, Cameron’s director of strategy, made sure that the Home Office consultation announced in September 2011 had Tory fingerprints all over it and was seen to have been “personally pushed through by DC”.
Cooper was delighted. “Modern compassionate Conservatism lives!” he texted allies. In the months that followed, the proposals that became the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill were sometimes perceived as a bolt from the blue, or a crass attempt by Cameron to rebrand his party as it approached mid-term.
But the Bill was neither of these things. More than any other single reform enacted by the Coalition, it symbolised Cameron’s politics and the continuity of his beliefs.