Something that I haven't seen much covered since this week's vote on the Equal Marriage bill is just how much it tells us about the social conservatism of the 2010 Tory MP intake.
Using the data on the vote from the Guardian Data Blog I have sorted those Tory MPs who voted for the bill into four categories. Those first elected before 1990, those first elected during the 1990s, those elected during the 2000s and those first elected in 2010.
I think the results tell an interesting story:
We all know that fewer Conservative MPs voted for the bill than voted against or abstained. But the trend here is very noteworthy. There is a steady increase in the percentages voting for the change as the first elected range increases through the decades. But suddenly for those elected in 2010 this goes into reverse. A lower percentage of the 2010 cohort voted for change than their 2000s colleagues (and that is already from a pretty low starting base).
This is very strange. Most of the MPs elected in 2010 will have been born and raised during a time when homosexuality has been legal. They will have seen things like the equalisation of the age of consent, the scrapping of Clause 28 and the introduction of civil partnerships all from outside of the House of Commons. They have literally grown up during a time of social progression and enlightenment on LGBT+ issues. And yet the majority of them were not willing to vote for the equalisation of marriage rights.
Whatever the arguments (and I have yet to see a really good principled argument against equalisation that doesn't appeal to the authority of some religious text or relies on slippery slope nonsense) David Cameron who took a clear lead on this issue has a big problem. The MPs that were elected in the general election where he led his party are more socially conservative than his contemporaries from the 2000s intakes. They seem to be getting more out of touch, not less.
If Cameron and other senior Tories ever want their party to reflect the open tolerant and socially liberal nation they wish to lead they are going to have to do some serious thinking about how to persuade those that make up the parliamentary party (and those who seek entry) their views are antediluvian and completely out of place in modern Britain.