It looks like the Tories have ridden out the row over Chris Grayling’s extraordinary defence of the right of B&B owners to turn away gay couples. But the fear that the “Nasty Party” still lives and breathes has been implanted in the mind of every floating voter.
The Conservatives’ attempt to defend their shadow home secretary, claiming that his words were merely a recollection of his previous opinion, does not hold water. Instead, the only credible option, as Chris Cook, a former Tory economics adviser, argues in the Financial Times, is for David Cameron to sack Grayling.
If the Tory leader is to dispel the suspicion that his modernisation of the party was a purely tactical manoeuvre, designed to reconstruct the election-winning machine of old, then there is no alternative.
Grayling’s comments are unacceptable for two essential reasons. First, as both Johann Hari and Peter Tatchell point out, had Grayling supported discrimination against black or Jewish couples, Cameron would not have hesistated to sack him. To suggest that different standards apply to gay couples is merely to replicate his original sin.
Second, this man, who hopes and expects to become home secretary in a few weeks’ time, in effect suggested that it was acceptable for people to break the law. It would now be risible for Cameron to allow him to take charge of the Home Office.
In fact, it is now likely that Grayling will be disposed of quietly, or at least demoted, after the election. As I’ve pointed out before, his serial gaffes (that comparison of Britain with The Wire, his unwitting attack on General Richard Dannatt’s appointment, the manipulation of crime statistics) made him a vulnerable figure long ago.
Still, if Cameron wants to prove that he has changed more than his party’s poll ratings, Grayling must go now.