Alex Massie

Transatlantic Differences

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There are times when it's good to be away from the hurly-burly of American politics. Doubly so when the subject of gay marriage comes up. Here, for instance, is a story it is hard to imagine happening in the United States: Nick Herbert, the Conservative party's Shadow Justice secretary has apparently become the second member of David Cameron's Shadow Cabinet, to enter into a civil partnership. It's hard to imagine too many senior gay Republicans feeling comfortable doing this, let alone doing so with the blessing of the party's leader and their constituency assosciation.

Then again, gay marriage in Britain has, generally speaking, been decoupled from religion. (Of course, some would say that everything else in Britain has been, so why not marriage too). Now maybe American conservatives (of one degree of religiosity or another) are correct that this sort of thing heralds the end of everything, but if so it's striking how relaxed their British counterparts, for the most part, are about this imminent descent to Sodom.

Best bits? The story of Herbert's marriage was broken by the Sunday Telegraph's diary column. That is to say it's gossip, not news. Better still? Herbert worked for the British Field Sports Society (ie, the fox-hunting and grouse-shooting lobby) for six years before entering parliament. Culturally at least, that organisation is to the Tory party rather what the the National Rifle Association is to the GOP.

On one level this is trivial stuff, but it's a reminder that the Republican party is increasingly out of step with its sister conservative parties around the world. That's not, in itself, necessarily a terrible thing but it ought to be borne in mind next time someone suggests that there are wholly applicable lessons to be drawn from Britain/Canada/Australia/Wherever. (You mean, pieces like this one? Er, yeah.) The fun lies in the differences, not the similarities - even if pundits are necessarily drawn to finding the latter and smoothing over the former.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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