“Continued trouble in the economy gives the bigots a stick to beat us with, as they demand we ‘postpone’ the equalities agenda in order to deal with ‘the things people really care about’. As if pursuing greater equality and fixing the economy simply cannot happen at once.”
Apparently the above wording formed the basis of a speech, extracts of which were released to the press about 3pm on Tuesday afternoon, which Nick Clegg intended to deliver at a reception that evening. However, for reasons best known to Nick and his staff, the wording was amended, and those opposing equality were no longer referred to as bigots.
It seems that Lord Carey took the original text as a personal attack. He told the BBC:“To be called a bigot is a very offensive statement and I would ask him to recall it ... because there are issues here that demand very serious debate.”
A bigot, according to the dictionary, is a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.
Of course there are people who, for religious or other reasons, do not agree with the idea of same-sex marriage. Whether it's reasonable to call someone a bigot for merely holding an opinion is quite another matter. But Lord Carey does not just hold an opinion that same-sex marriage is wrong, he is also in the forefront of a campaign to ensure that lesbian and gay couples aren't allowed to marry. His name is the very first name on a petition which will almost certainly have garnered 600,000 signatures within the next few days - though whether they're all genuine is open to doubt, as the petition organisers have been loath to answer any correspondence.
So Lord Carey is not just a person who objects to the idea of lesbian and gay couples marrying, he is also campaigning vociferously against equality. No wonder, then, that Carey self-identified as one of the bigots in Nick Clegg's proposed speech, and that he took such offence. It's just a shame that, once again, Clegg didn't have the courage of his convictions.