The week in review: Why would anyone get married?

Why do people get married anyway?
Why do people get married anyway?
Ian Dunt By

Gay people will soon be able to get married. And to celebrate, Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce wanted to show them how joyful the experience can be.  They were a charming, cerebral couple from England and Greecey. Married for 16 years. He likes the euro and civil liberties, she likes macro-economic policy and fidelity. Alas, it didn't work out. It's as if the traditionalists in the Conservative party engineered a parable of despair to sully a historic victory. Gay couples came blinking into the mainstream, only to discover a patchwork of misery and regret. They should have just watched an episode of Eastenders.

Huhne pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice at the start of the week. It was a move which took the political world by surprise, given he had spent a year denying it. He stepped down as an MP later that day, triggering a mouth-watering by-election between the Liberal Democrats and the Tories in Eastleigh.

The Lib Dems fired the starting gun on a shotgun contest with a drab Nick Clegg speech no-one covered and the announcement of a February 28th poll date. The modernised Tory party selected Maria 'I don't care about refugees' Hutchings as its candidate. Her track record is impeccable – she managed to boost Huhne's majority by 3,296 last time she ran for the seat.

But back in court, the reality of marriage was still playing out for gay people everywhere to contemplate. Pryce's testimony was particularly awful. Huhne was an absent father, she told jurors. He had pushed her into an abortion she didn't want. Even text messages to his son came out, none of which were well received. It was acutely personal and everyone - bar a handful of online trolls - seemed put off by the whole thing. Huhne's crime was not particularly repellent and the details of his private life were painful. But with all the information coming out in open court, outlets would have been censorious not to publish. Most people who listened to the recorded phone calls between former lovers would have felt grubby and empty afterwards.


There was grubbiness and emptiness all round in the Commons as MPs debated the gay marriage bill. Labour and Lib Dem MPs were mostly for it, leaving a motley rabble of Tory and DUP MPs to speak weird nonsense about what constitutes 'complete' sex.

If Cameron had intended for the proposal to have a positive effect on public perceptions of his party he was quite mistaken. More than half abstained or rejected the bill, leading Ed Miliband to reassure the prime minister  that he had "just under half his parliamentary party behind him". The most vocal MPs seemed creaky, old and thoroughly fascinated by what other people got up to in their bedrooms. Everyone thought Cameron was to be commended for the effort, but no-one thought he came out of it well.

Bit like marriage. Gay couples take note.

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