It’s a victory for freedom, but could Same Sex Marriage have cost Cameron more than he realises?
There are many ways to avoid inheritance tax. With a creative accountant and a liberal interpretation of Her Majesty’s wishes it is quite a simple task. One popular method involves placing a property in trust in order to pass the liability from the testator to the beneficiary, and thus reduce the tax burden. On top of this there are clever schemes by which estates can become the property of a business, at which point the cost of unpicking the web negates the tax which would be gained by doing so.
There is, however, a tempting new alternative that will become possible if the same sex marriage bill is passed. It is so simple that it is sure to catch on quickly amongst the landed gentry, and spread from there to the furthest corners of the Empire, possibly as far as Chislehurst. You could, as Lord Tebbit and Jeremy Irons have suggested, simply marry your children instead.
After a short struggle with the voices in his head, Jeremy Irons declared in a recent interview that “If I wanted to pass on my estate without death duties I could marry my son and pass on my estate to him.”
I wonder what Max Irons thinks of the idea? Perhaps he hasn’t heard about it. The exchange has had a profound influence on one person at least. Swivel-eyed with rage upon realising that the true purpose of the bill is tax avoidance by the tradesman’s entrance, Lord Tebbit has taken to the pages of The Big Issue, a well known vehicle of right-wing propaganda.
“It would lift my worries about inheritance tax because maybe I’d be allowed to marry my son. Why not? Why shouldn’t a mother marry her daughter? Why shouldn’t two elderly sisters living together marry each other?”
Why not, indeed? Lord Tebbit (and his new mate Jeremy) are referring to the prohibited degrees of relationship outlined in the Marriage Act 1949. These prohibited relationships do not include sons of men or daughters of women, for obvious reasons. If the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) bill is passed in its current form then there is no clear legal reason that a man could not marry his son. Scandalous, no?
An amendment to the bill would be sufficient to address this problem. Frankly if anyone is willing to test this, the court case would provide some light relief and a welcome distraction to the woes of coalition government. The sensible option is an amendment. Perhaps someone could suggest such a thing when the bill passes through the House of Lords? An influential former cabinet minister, perhaps?
Outside the Westminster bubble and the mind of Jeremy Irons there are other influential opponents of the same sex marriage bill. The Archbishop of York, in a statement repeated by the Church of England on their website, is seemingly a new convert to small state libertarianism.
“I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just change it overnight, no matter how powerful you are.”
He then goes on to reaffirm his libertarian credentials by comparing the government to a dictatorship.
“We’ve seen dictators do it, by the way, in different contexts and I don’t want to redefine what I call very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time and then overnight the state believes it could go in a particular way.”
General Maputu was unavailable for comment, but a close personal aide assures me that he is incensed to have been compared to the British government in this way.
There is one problem with the bill. The absence of any provision to allow heterosexual couples to enter a civil partnership. Positive discrimination is an affront to equality, and it is not a precedent that any government should be willing to set. The cost would be considerable, but in the interests of equality it is a price worth paying.
Meanwhile, with Middle England feeling a bit maligned and miffed, Nigel Farage is tickling its tummy by suggesting that British overseas territories should have their own Members of Parliament. David Cameron desperately needs some red meat to throw at his backbenchers if he is to survive for another two years, and I suspect that somewhere in Millbank a group of SpAds are at this very moment trying to devise some headline grabbing policies. Once again the Prime Minister has been outmanoeuvred by the town drunk. It’s no wonder he has been avoiding Prime Minister’s Questions lately.
Having had to crawl on his hands and knees to the opposition to secure the passage of the bill, David Cameron may have just signed his own death warrant. Months before Tony Blair announced his resignation he had to do much the same thing to pass an education bill that his backbenchers opposed. If this week does mark a similar turning point in the history of the current government, then David Cameron may just have sacrificed his career for the sake of same sex marriage.
Daniel Jackson pushes paper at a London based centre-right think tank. Between meddling in the dark arts and raising his young family he occasionally tweets at @danieljksn