Tuesday, 16 February 2016

No, I'm not a special kind of lovely Tory - just the regular kind


The attitude of some of my left-wing friends to Conservatives is best compared to the old racist who when challenged about his racism - "but what about Dave, you're OK with Dave?" - replies with something like, "ah, Dave's OK but the rest of those blacks....". Here's an example:

It constantly amazes me that you'd rather wallow in Tory rapacious greed. Cos I don't think you belong there.

You see the problem with all this is that I really am a Conservative. Not a special kind of lovely Tory but the regular sort. I know hundreds of Tories and overwhelmingly they're ordinary, decent, kind, caring, helpful folk. There's no sign of any 'rapacious greed' and I've yet to be served baby at a dinner party. Now I'm prepared to speculate that it may just be that I'm not invited to the sort of dinner parties where rapacious greed is celebrated but somehow I doubt it.

So when I'm with Tories, what do we 'wallow in' if it's not 'rapacious greed'? Well from my experience, what we talk about ranges from the mundane ('lovely weather', 'did you get away for a holiday this Summer', and 'how are the children doing') to matters such as schools, crime, clean streets and green fields. If we get a little more philosophical (although being conservatives we don't like to do this too often - gets in the way of our cherished 'stupid party' positioning), we might discuss the limits of free markets, the decline of religion or the balance between a liberal arts and vocational curriculum in schools.

When we're pushed, we'll give you an answer about what conservatism means and words like independence, choice and heritage might crop up. The discussion might mention the importance of institutions and the idea of 'putting something back'. Plus of course the principle that its right that value added to society is rewarded and that we've a duty to do right by ourselves, our family and our neighbours. On the harder crunchier economics the response will be a visceral support for 'business', the centrality of property rights and a slightly equivocal relationship with the idea of markets. And we're not the biggest fans of taxes.

Now it's true that I tend towards the liberal wing of the party but that doesn't mean I don't accept the idea of personal responsibility, don't think that institutions should be changed gently (if at all) rather than torn down in a fit of nihilistic creative destruction. In the end, I've come to recognise that there's a limit to idealism and that most people I represent want practical, pragmatic things from their elected representatives - a sort of 'soft loo paper conservatism'.

So yes, I care - but then so do most conservatives, the very conservatives you'll find on the 'fair trade' stall at church or working in the local charity shop. The same conservatives who help set up car clubs to run people without transport from their village to the doctors or the hospital, who organise a lunch club for elderly neighbours, who help run the village hall, who rattle tins for a bewildering range of good causes, who cherish local history societies and get their hands dirty with the gardening club or their faces daubed for the am-dram panto.

So my left-wing friends, I'm glad you've noticed that I'm neither rapacious or greed-filled. What you need to learn now is that I'm pretty typical of conservatives in England, of the people who for the last 20 years have trusted me as one of their Conservative councillors in Bingley Rural. These people aren't rapcious or greedy either, they're just decent, honest folk who want to get on with their lives, who want to live in a safe, happy and strong community and who know that the best way to do that is to elect Conservatives.



Unknown said...

You appear to be the kind of conservative I told my 11 year old daughter about as she wrapt at the fact 60% of the people around us voted for Philip Davies.

He is not like you. He represents me in parliament.

singapore sling said...

But this is exactly what conservatives don't do. In the 80s they showed how much respect they have for local communities and traditional way of life by eviscerating towns and cities across the country.

Now, they'll talk about "patriotism" and this country's "sovereignty" while gleefully opening up the capital's housing to Arab, Russian and Chinese "investors" and pricing out working-class Londoners. And I don't think ordinary working-class migrants are to blame for this, but Dave's donors. And you can forget all about strategic industries being protected or nationalised, aparrently we need "sovereignty" but basic things like our energy should be controlled by transnational corporations and dodgy foreign regimes.

The traditional communities have been destroyed by all this "reform", and it's strange how alleged conservatives show an almost Maoist zeal to top-down reform" everything they can get their hands on.

Sean said...

I've no doubt that you are a fundamentally decent chap and so are all the lovely conservatives helping out at the Church tombola. I mean, I've met these people and they are indeed extremely community minded and pleasant. Which then begs the question: why the dissonance? Why do measures of poverty and inequality tend to rise under your watch? Why does austerity mean disabled people getting shafted when middle class pensioners have an easy ride? This is not an argument about austerity, merely who has to be austere - it could after all be the middle classes who take a greater share of the burden, being as they are good community minded people.

If you're all so lovely, why did it take you decades to come around to feeling that gay people weren't second class citizens? (And then only in part.) If you want the government to have the minimum of control over people's lives, why do conservatives want to break up families who have the termerity to be poor when one parent is foreign?

I'm pretty sure that middle class, conservative Britain is a lovely place to be - for the insiders. A post explaining why those who can't or won't join this merry tribe must be treated so shoddily would be a useful insight, because those of us on the outside are - at best - mystified by this.

Richard said...

I wouldn't have ever described you as "greedy and rapacious". "Complacent" would be nearer the mark.

I think this is where a lot of people on the left miss the mark. Most ordinary conservatives are greedy in the sense of being interested in accumulating wealth, they're more concerned with preserving what they have, which may be a little or maybe a lot.

This sort of conservative is fundamentally comfortable in their lifestyle, but fearful of attempts to change it or take it away. Conservative rhetoric offers the reassurance that that lifestyle is fundamentally decent and good. That you are not part of the problem and that you deserve what you have. Hence the constant use of the term "hard-working" to contrast with "lucky". This term implies both that you deserve your lifestyle and that people who don't have it don't, because they didn't work hard enough.

Fortunately for the Conservative party, this sort of rhetoric plays wealth with a constituency that has the means and inclination to voters. It's also effective with pensioners who prefer to think of their pensions being paid for from their accumulate national insurance contributions and not, as it is in reality, by the current contributions of younger workers.

This sort of conservatism may be very concerned about others, but only within their own community. It tends to be indifferent to anything outside of that. Hence its ongoing "nimbyism" and the fact that conservative anti-cuts protesters can be bought off with grants of money to their own councils.

You say that you "think that institutions should be changed gently (if at all) rather than torn down in a fit of nihilistic creative destruction" but I'm not sure how you square that with the chaotic restructuring of the NHS, re-writing of the national curriculum and upheaval of the welfare state by your own party in government. All of this appears to have been pursued with little or no evidence, beyond ministers personal beliefs. The best I can assume is that these changes have little impact on you and so you are uninclined to notice them.

RES said...

I would concur with a great deal of what you write about Conservative voters. My conservative friends are the same, as is my father. But I don't feel that people like that are the same Conservatives who tend to sit in parliament and run the country. I also find it hard to square "decent" conservates with the bile, hate and narrow-mindedness of Tory-leaning papers like the Daily Mail.

It's not just me either, to take my father a case in point: he was a reliable Conservative voter but now no longer votes, because somewhere after John Major, he began to feel that the parliamentary Conservative party wasn't his party any more.

Some leftists certainly do hate Tories. But for the many whose primary experience of contact with conservatism is things like Tory government policy and the Daily Mail rather than the inhabitants of rural Yorkshire, it's should be quite easy to understand why.

Anonymous said...

But the same can be said for many Labour politicians: dedicated, honest and moral people who work hard to help their constituents to live better lives. They may apply a different flavour to how they deliver that service, but they are still fundamentally decent folk, trying their best, earning their votes, making things better.
The problem with both big parties is the disconnect between the party corporate and the parties' individuals - the corporate positioning leads to one being considered the 'Nasty Party', while the other is the 'Scroungers' Party' - neither epithet is true, but the labels are applied despite the good works done on the ground by armies of individual representatives.
If more people voted for the individual, rather than the party, there may be a chance of reversing this, but in the world of corporate politics, I fear we're already too far down the road ever to recover to real politics, and real politicians, at every level.