The Labour benches and the pages of the Guardian are not normally places one would go for a defence of Empire – until, that is, comes along an opportunity to further a popular liberal cause in a British overseas territory. Then, otherwise liberal-minded folk, who would normally be falling over themselves to apologise for the evils of the British Empire, bizarrely come over all neo-colonial – demanding that the Government lords it over the untrustworthy natives and imposes direct rule from Westminster.
This week, the Bermudan government overturned a ruling made by the island’s supreme court introducing gay marriage. The government’s decision was in response to a referendum on the island which had opposed gay marriage. Bermuda will now return to the situation which existed in Britain between 2005 and 2014, when gay couples could enter into civil partnerships – an arrangement with all the practical benefits of marriage – but not into formal marriages.
This has outraged Labour MP Chris Bryant, who claims it ‘totally undermines’ the battle to advance LGBT rights worldwide. He, along with many others, have demanded that the Foreign Secretary overrule the Bermudan government and impose gay marriage on the island.
Clearly, the Bermudian decision is at odds with the views of our own Government. Foreign Office minister Harriett Baldwin has said as much, saying she was ‘disappointed’ by the decision. But there is a very good reason why the Foreign Office will not intervene: Bermuda is a functioning democracy, and is sovereign in its internal affairs. It has had a parliament since the 17th century. It has free elections, and on the issue of gay marriage even held a referendum. The island’s government has come up with a compromise to please two very opposed sides in the debates, which is surely how we ought to expect a democracy to function.
Sadly, though, many on the liberal-left in Britain no longer have a genuine belief in democracy. They approve of it when it produces results which they like. When it produces results they do not like, on the other hand, they believe it should be over-ruled in favour of their own politics.
How weird that in a week when so many have been falling over each other to celebrate the 100th anniversary of female suffrage in Britain that many of these same people want to disenfranchise 65,000 Bermudans.