Ed West Ed West

The Tories aren’t being honest about foreign marriages

(Photo: iStock)

Western liberalism was built on the principle of marrying out. Our beliefs about the freedom of the individual ultimately stem from the Catholic Church’s ban on cousin marriage, which helped create a worldview that was open, trusting and opposed to both clannishness and xenophobia.

The medieval Church’s insistence that marriage be consensual was revolutionary and strange; back in the 13th century a romantic poem, The History of William Marshal, has the protagonist coming across an eloping couple who have defied their parents to seek true love. Our hero then robs them, and since the story was commissioned by Marshal’s sons to glorify him, we can assume that public opinion might have thought this the right thing to do.

Yet three centuries later a popular playwright was able to write a story in which the audience sympathises with star-crossed lovers defying their parents’ wishes. Czech social scientist Karl Deutsch called this change of attitude ‘the Romeo and Juliet revolution’, and romantic freedom was intimately tied up with individualism – the idea that a person must be free to make their own life choices, rather than doing what is best for their clan.

Because the right to marry for love is central to our idea of individual liberty and personal happiness, many people strongly object to anyone who might stand in the way, whether it’s the Montague and Capulet patriarchs or the Conservative party.

So the government’s new marriage restrictions for foreign spouses have been harshly criticised, with many couples now denied a chance of happiness. The reason for this change of policy is that the Tories are at disastrous polling levels, almost bad enough to send them into Canadian-style extinction at the next election. They are even losing votes to the tiny protest party Reform – and were Nigel Farage to return from the jungle to lead that movement, the Conservatives might well come third.

The biggest headache is the huge rise in immigration post-Brexit, carried out both for economic and ideological reasons, but extremely unwise politically.

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