'...The problem for Mr Cameron is that those old-fashioned conservatives often reflect wider public opinion in this country. The views of progressive Tories on homosexual marriage and on drugs are entirely metropolitan. They do not reflect feelings in the Tory heartland, for which the party leadership often has little regard. Talking to MPs and peers this week, I noticed anger directed towards the PM at unprecedented levels. Something most Conservatives, and many others, have always taken for granted — that marriage was an institution for joining men to women — is now utterly disregarded by the leader of the party that was supposed to speak for them.

Nor is it disregarded after rational debate or philosophical disputation. It is disregarded because Mr Cameron and his advisers have decided the traditional and sacred institution of marriage can mean not what it has always meant, but whatever they want it to mean.

And they want it to mean that men can marry men, and women can marry women, because it is another means — like giving millions to murderous and corrupt African dictators — of ‘proving’ that they are not ‘nasty’.

Well, I — and quite a few other people — regard it as pretty nasty to be told that to hold a mainstream and traditional view of marriage is intolerant or bigoted. Most of us regard the private lives of homosexuals as their business and theirs alone: all we contend, with the practice of millennia behind us, is that they cannot be eligible to marry each other, any more than I can be eligible to play in the Ladies Singles at Wimbledon.

The Tory leadership must be careful. Their grass roots are in revolt at this development.

Conservatism, despite Mr Blair’s calculating attempt to destroy it, is a legitimate and honourable political doctrine that has done much good for this country. Millions of decent, respectable people subscribe to it. Progressive ‘conservatives’ insult it, and them, at their peril.