...the Conservative party in Britain is in dire, dire trouble. And the root of this malaise is precisely this mix of snooty remoteness, intellectual woolliness and odious wetness exhibited by senior party figures like Oliver Wetwin.
Saturday, 2 April 2011
I’m a Conservative – a bit like Iggy Pop’s a conservative. I don’t see the need to change things that don’t need changing, I think that most of the time people can get on with each other and with their lives without the need for the state’s guiding hand and I believe that the place we’re from and the place we choose to settle shapes who we are and encapsulates our values, our culture if you will.
I look across Yorkshire’s green hills, listen to the birds singing and look at those things seeming timeless – the beer, the food, the walls and trees, the rounded vowels and, above all, that view that this land is ours to cherish. To understand what it means to be conservative, you have to grasp that this is everyone’s.
James Delingpole – who probably isn’t a conservative – writes today in his usual polemical manner about the Conservative Party’s predicament:
And it’s true – Oliver Letwin, for all his Etonian grandeur, his haughty braininess and his riches, isn’t a conservative. But the party’s predicament isn’t down to the Letwins of this world – it’s down to us losing touch with the core of our vote. People who are not the scions of fine families, have at best a tenuous connection to the world of merchant banking or the city and whose connection with fine houses comes from trips to visit them using our National Trust membership.
Last May, my party won seats because ordinary working people started to vote Tory again – among the snobbish elite voting Tory was only acceptable if one knew the candidate or their views were suitably “liberal”. Knocking on two-thirds of professional and managerial voters used to plump for Tory candidates back in the 1970s and 1980s – last year we struggled to 39% of such folk.
By contrast, 37% of the skilled working class – all those men in white vans, those plumbers, chippies and lathe turners – voted Conservative in 2010. Men and women looking for that idea of aspiration, self-reliance and independence that conservatives offer. People for whom the simple sense of place – of village, town or city, county and nation – helps define who they are and who care little for the obsessions of those with the cash to indulge in fine thoughts.
In Bingley Rural – five villages in the South Pennines – there aren’t many millionaires. The roads aren’t cluttered with flash cars, we don’t have fancy wine bars or posh boutiques, the merchant banker is most definitely a foreign beast – but we are pretty conservative. We like the place as it is, we like the features of the villages, the pubs, the farm shops, the butcher, we enjoy the company of neighbours and friends and we want to work. We love the setting and the country around us.
What we ask of our government is pretty simple – protection from crime, good schools and skilled doctors, helping keep the place clean, maintaining the roads, pavements and parks, providing support – when needed – to those in need and preserving the good things about the places. We don’t ask for lectures about “climate change”, about drinking and smoking, what kind of car we drive or holiday we take.
When I knock on doors and talk to local folk, they don’t ask me about the carbon footprint of Easyjet or the need to ban booze advertising. People don’t mention ‘gross national happiness’ or the equalities agenda. What they ask is why the pubs are going bust, how expensive basic staples – food and fuel - have got, how they never see a copper and why their son can’t afford a house in the village.
Simple, easy-to-understand things concerned with the place we live, with keeping it nice, with making it better – conservative things.