Last week witnessed a watershed moment in British societal and political history, in the form of the House of Commons passing a bill to allow homosexual marriage. This was, however, not only a stunning moment in history, but a turning point in this parliament.
136 Conservative MPs voted against the bill, casting severe doubt on David Cameron, and whether he has full control over and respect of his party. Whilst not a rebellion in the traditional sense of the word (Conservative MPs were given a free vote, as opposed to Labour and the Liberal Democrats), the fact that so many members of his party went against the leadership will give Cameron some sleepless nights over the coming months.
Whilst inevitably the vote has shown that some Conservative MPs remain strikingly traditionalist, it perhaps indicates more that Cameron, since he was elected leader in 2005, has failed to modernise the Tories sufficiently.
On the surface, this undermines his entire leadership. Elected in the aftermath of an embarrassing defeat to an unpopular Labour Party in 2005, Cameron has attempted to inject youth and vitality into a party intent on clinging on to its outdated history.
Initially, it all went swimmingly for Mr Cameron. Ultimately able to shake off comparisons to Tony Blair, he set about turning the Conservatives into a party that could challenge and ultimately usurp Labour from their perch. Indeed, victory at the 2010 general election appeared at first glance to be the moment when Cameron grew from merely a politician to a leader.
Was this the case though? It is plausible to say that despite winning 307 seats, the Conservatives severely under performed.
With Labour in tatters, a Prime Minister who was the laughing stock of the nation and one of the worst economic crises the country had ever seen, the Conservatives blew the chance to secure their first majority government since John Major.
To place the blame entirely on David Cameron would, however, be somewhat misguided. He managed to turn the party into an electoral force once again, with a package of policies that were attractive to undecided and faithful voters.
Since then however, his leadership has been criticised severely. His judgement has been questioned on numerous occasions and he has often been accused of being spineless.
I do think however, this criticism is unjustified. Admittedly, there have been more ‘U-turns’ than he would care to mention, however Cameron has gone about his business in a dignified, proper manner that many seem to have ignored.
His victory in managing to secure a cut in the EU budget is a sensational one for a man who many had dismissed as spineless. Moreover, deciding to offer a referendum on British membership of the European Union finally showed that he is prepared to make bold decisions. This boldness was extended when the equal marriage proposals were announced and ultimately passed. Whether or not you agree with the legislation is irrelevant, the fact of the matter is Cameron has stuck to his principles and has finally decided to stand up to his backbenchers.
Criticism of failing to modernise the Conservatives is also unfounded. Compared to 2005, this party is radically different. There will always be a traditionalist core to the Tories, and this core very much raised itself from the depths last week. But the fact that Cameron has managed to secure a monumentally progressive with nearly half the parliamentary party is quite an achievement.
Cameron has had a difficult two and a half years as Prime Minister, but it appears that he has finally become the leader that both the Conservatives and the country needs.