Yes Lynne Featherstone does deserve credit for same-sex marriage

By Samuel Lawes

It’s always fun to get a joke going on Twitter. The latest one to gather steam involves a recent Facebook post about same-sex marriage, written by Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat politician and former Coalition minister.

She took to her page on Wednesday to declare that "same-sex marriage came from me… from my head to becoming the law". Inevitably, a torrent of mockery has subsequently descended.

Some of it has been amusing. Hastily mocked-up memes thank Lynne for inventing same-sex marriage worldwide. More praise her for coming up with well-loved conveniences including sliced bread, penicillin and the wheel.

But is it really fair, or is everybody simply enjoying having a good laugh at a deposed MP who can’t quite stomach seeing credit taken by others – notably the Prime Minister – for her hard work?

Herein lies the reason why this is actually all quite cheap. When Lynne Featherstone warns (lower down in the same Facebook post) that “the bastards will try and write us out of history” she is demonstrably right. The PM has repeatedly declared equal marriage a great Conservative reform; the Chancellor can't stop telling us about the “thoroughly Conservative” policy of cutting income tax for the least well-paid by raising the base-rate threshold at which it is collected.

It is politically fashionable to declare the Lib Dems an irrelevance in this way. But it is likewise routine for politicos, especially those spending much of their time on Twitter and Facebook, to ignore context, jump on ill-phrased comments and generally indulge in lazy ‘gotcha’ politics.

In the case of Lynne Featherstone, people are choosing to mock the way she presents her complaint rather than to hear and consider its merit. Those who disagree with what she has fought for – namely equal marriage, the campaign against FGM and work to reduce gender and racial bias – are merely taking an easy shot at a political opponent. But supporters of these things should be ashamed of themselves for treating a person who has done so much for causes dear to them with such lazy derision.

There are inevitable consequences to ignoring the successes of the Liberal Democrats, giving credit to other parties for their work and mocking them if they dare to complain.

One is that we have created a political environment that favours the opportunistic over the genuine. Another is that in future governments, politicians will learn the lesson that what voters reward is carefully crafted political spin and the ability of the winners to rewrite history. If that's the kind of politics we want, then those who genuinely want to change a country for the better might as well not bother.

Samuel Lawes is a political commentator who worked as Lynne Featherstone's political organiser throughout the last general election. 

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