My father once told me that tolerance was a great and precious British virtue, and that we shouldn’t waste it on homosexuals. Even at the time this struck me as a somewhat illiberal and unkind point of view to which I privately objected. It was easier though, back then, to hold such ‘homophobic’ beliefs because there were only eight or nine homosexuals in the entire country, so far as we were aware, and they all seemed slightly ashamed of their predilection, except for maybe Quentin Crisp and Joe Orton. It is good that we have moved on from that position to one in which tolerance is not merely by law compulsory, but that further, if you should have any quibble with any aspiration of the now vast homosexual community, you should be hounded out of your job or position and subjected to public vilification. This, for me, is the true meaning of tolerance: an absolute refusal to allow a view which runs counter to your own and, in the manner of our Deputy Prime Minister, making it clear that anyone who does hold such views is a ‘bigot’. A ruthlessness towards anyone who shows deviation from the inestimably tolerant line.
Take the case of Christina Summers, a Green Party councillor who has now been expelled from her local party because she could not bring herself, as a Christian, to support a motion demanding that the government change the marriage laws so that gay people could get married just the same as the dwindling number of straights. Ms Summers pointed out that she was fully in support of homosexual equality and civil partnerships for gay people, it was just the marriage stuff which, as a Christian, she had one or two problems with. ‘Marriage is about a relationship between a man and a woman together in a relationship and about procreation and family,’ this sad old dinosaur insisted. But her local party bosses hauled her before a disciplinary inquiry and decided she should be kicked out of the local party. Sadly, they don’t have the power to kick her out of the Green Party nationally, nor to overrule the wishes of the electorate and remove her from her council seat, as they rather glumly admitted. Nor do they have the power, yet, to set her on fire in the town square or beat her over the head with a baseball bat — but in the name of tolerance, one would hope that day will soon come.
A local Green Party man coated in designer stubble and with lots of bits of metal puncturing his face justified the decision, citing Ms Summer’s appalling intolerance. And the Soviet-style trial which kicked her out made it clear that no matter what others might say as a consequence, the Green Party remained ‘fierce defenders of free speech and freedom of beliefs’. I have to tell you that this is one of my favourite quotes of the year. Yay to freedom of beliefs!
Ms Summers is a councillor in Brighton, where everybody is a homosexual, or (to couch it in the modern and approved manner), a member of the lesbian gay bisexual transsexual intersex community (LGBTI) — except, one assumes, for Christina Summers. This partly explains their rigour on this issue, and also why the council was holding a wholly irrelevant vote to lobby the government on the need to afford gay people the same marriage rights as straight people — in the manner of a polytechnic students’ union lobbying the government of Israel to stop being beastly to Palestinians. Again, I suppose it is intolerant to suggest that Brighton’s councillors should concern themselves with sorting out the parking and emptying the bloody bins rather than indulging in breast-beating and grandstanding sixth-form agitprop. Or indeed, they might spend their time trying to convince more locals to use their hugely expensive charge points for electric cars, which have gone almost unused because nobody with any sense, gay or straight, would drive an electric car. It would be intolerant to suggest that, so I won’t.
Some Green Party spokesmonkeys have asserted that if Ms Summers held these views about gay people then she shouldn’t have joined the Green Party in the first place — and so her candidacy as a council candidate was an example of charlatanism and deception. My guess is that Ms Summers joined the Greens because she liked rabbits, or something, or wished for the entirety of the British Isles to be festooned with those magnificent, attractive and fantastically economical wind turbines. It is undoubtedly true that the Greens support — unequivocally — the aims of the LGBTI lobby; indeed, having once been a party for people who were a bit worried about what we are doing to the environment, it has latterly become a party for the homosexual lobby and the poor rabbits hardly get a look in. On the other hand, Ms Summers has made it clear that she fully supports gay rights, except on this singularly Christian issue of the Christian marriage ceremony. The point ought to be made here that marriage, as opposed to civil partnership, confers no greater legal or financial rights upon its participants. It is just about trying to second-guess what God thinks.
None of this washed with the local Greens. Summers signed up to a bunch of shibboleths when she joined the party and — even if the marriage thing wasn’t spelled out — that’s that. Not for them the whining liberal equivocation of George Orwell that only a thug or an idiot could agree with every single policy of a political party. Call us what you will, they insist — thugs or idiots, our commitment to tolerance is absolute. My dad would have been proud of them.