Ukip had two “unique selling points” until recently: one was its wish to pull out of the EU, the other was its obdurate opposition to gay marriage.
Gay marriage drove a number of Tory councillors into Ukip’s ranks, including David Silvester, from Henley, who believed that it was the cause of the recent floods. Ukip’s reasons for opposing gay marriage are still prominently displayed on its official website.
But times have changed. Gay couples are already registering their intention to marry. The first same-sex weddings will be held a week on Saturday. It is a reality to which even Ukip has to adjust. During a question-and-answer session with readers of Pink News, Nigel Farage was asked whether it would be Ukip policy to withdraw legal recognition from couples who have married under the new law. He replied simply: “No.”
He also said that he wants more gays to join his party, whose membership, it was proudly announced today, has expanded to a record 34,542.
... but meanwhile in Henley
Meanwhile, Oxfordshire County Council has begun an investigation into whether it breaches the councillors’ code of conduct to claim that bad weather is God’s retribution for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act.
It is doing so because some people want David Silvester removed from Henley Town Council. Since writing that fateful letter to his local paper in January, Silvester has been expelled from Ukip and faced a town meeting at which he apologised to anyone he had offended. But he has refused to recant, and in some people’s eyes, he has still not been punished enough.
“It really makes a laughing stock of Henley that he’s still in his position,” one of the leading complainants, Sarah Butcher, told the Henley Standard. “He is entitled to his own views, but not in public office.”
Actually, he is entitled to his views, in public office or out, and making a laughing stock of Henley is not an offence under the code of conduct as I understand it.
It was kind of the Association of Professional Political Consultants to invite me to its 20th-anniversary reception. It knows that an email has greater impact if it addresses the recipient by name. Mine begins: “Dear Patrick...” My colleague Oliver Wright has one addressed to: “Dear Rowena...”
Posher than posh
The Government has virtually given up legislating until after next year’s election. Having nothing much else to do, the Tories have started a jolly old row among themselves about whether there are too many Old Etonians in Government.
According to The Spectator, Michael Gove was “given a right royal b******ing” for starting it off. Downing Street has played down Baroness Warsi’s TV appearance carrying a spoof newspaper front page with a headline that said: “Number 10 takes Eton Mess off the menu.”
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, told LBC: “I don’t think you should judge somebody on where they came from and whether they went to Eton.”
Privately, one ministerial aide was commiserating with Eric Pickles that his Department for Communities and Local Government is “bereft”, having no Old Etonians in its ministerial team. Pickles replied: “We’ve got Nick Boles – he counts.”
Boles went to Winchester College, where the fees are higher than Eton’s – £33,750, against £33,270 a year. To an old boy of Greenhead Grammar School, Yorkshire... same difference.