A Bigot? Moi? image

A Bigot? Moi?

I’m writing this on the train, and the guy who was sitting next to me has just got off leaving his copy of the Daily Mail behind. “Fury over Clegg ‘Bigot’ slur of gay marriage opponents” screams the headline in two-inch high letters. I’m not sure what the headlines in the more restrained sections of the press are, but the furore over Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s choice of words is fun to watch.

The thing that gets me is that the use of the b word should cause this furore at all. Of course, it has echoes of “Bigotgate” when then Prime Minister Gordon Brown described Gillian Duffy as “some bigoted woman” – an incident that nailed fast shut his electoral coffin. I felt rather sorry for Brown on that occasion. After all, which of us has not said something in private that we would die a thousand deaths for if it were broadcast to a wide public? Also, while bigot is not the politest word, Brown was entitled to think that Duffy’s views on immigration displayed a certain narrowness of generosity. It seemed to me that he was being beaten with an unfair (even bigoted!) stick.

So, as an opponent of gay marriage, should I feel offended that Nick Clegg considers me a bigot? Because I don’t. Not one little bit. Instead, I think he should have every right to label as bigotry what he considers to be bigotry; just as I also think I should every right to express the views I hold about marriage. I think the Brighton Green Party have displayed bigoted behaviour in expelling Councillor Christina Summers for her opposition to gay marriage. They, in turn, consider her a bigot for these very views. Someone is right and someone wrong in their views here, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to express them.

The great thing about living in a democracy is that we do not have to vote for people whose views we disagree with. Nick Clegg’s views may be silly, ill-informed and wrong, but that doesn’t mean he should be condemned for expressing them. Indeed, the fact that he has expressed them should make it easier for his constituents to make a decision about the way they mark their ballot papers come the next general election.

When it comes to the culture wars we need to think carefully about which battles we choose to fight. I want to fight for marriage, but I’m not going to get up in arms about what people call me in the process.

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