'The present system means joyless drudgery, semi-starvation, rags and premature death; and they vote for it and uphold it. Let them have what they vote for! Let them drudge and let them starve!'.So proclaimed Frank Owen of the 'ragged trousered philanthropists' who had the audacity to vote Conservative. And thus was born the myth of the Tory working class - trained, almost dog-like, to nod to their betters and defer to their thoughts.
It always seemed that 'the left' are deeply concerned at the prospect that any 'worker' might vote for a political party other than one 'of the left' (whatever that means). After all, Tories "despise the working class", how can a member of that class vote for them?
All this explains why the Conservative politicians for whom 'the left' reserve the greatest vitriol - even hatred - are those who challenge their perspective. When Norman Tebbit, Eric Pickles, Patrick McLaughlin or even Nadine Dorries speak up the sound of left-wing hackles rising can be heard right across the nation. These people are the acme of class traitorhood, the very personification of false consciousness, the quislings of the working class.
The left is quite comfortable with David Cameron and George Osborne because they are what Tories should be: inherited wealth, top public school, Oxford, horse-riding - all the stereotypes of left-wing iconography. It makes for an easy campaign, roll out Dennis Skinner ranting about privilege, talk about 'out of touch Tory toffs' and add in images of top hats (or that over-used Bullingdon photograph - I wonder whose copyright it is, they should have made a fortune).
The problem is that it really isn't as simple as that, this class divide malarkey. For sure we can show people about the idea of surplus value with three slices of bread and a knife but that doesn't make it true nor does it put a roof over someone's head and a meal on the table. More to the point Norman, Eric and Nadine are proof that, not only does the Conservative Party not "despise the working class" but people from that class can get to powerful positions in the Party. This is not how it should be!
Today a man earning fifty or sixty thousand a year as a skilled operator working on shift is considered working class (and will most likely be a member of that working class institution Unite the Union) whereas a man earning half that amount from his fields is a rentier ("boo-hiss"). The argument to those ragged trousered ones a hundred years ago - that they should throw off those capitalist shackles - no longer stands since the ragged trousers have been replaced with designer clothes, two weeks in Tenerife and a new (-ish) Audi.
It seems the 'philanthropists' were right - invest in the free system and everyone gains. We don't know whether Owen was right (although there has been the occasional hint as to socialism's inadequacy as a system) but it doesn't matter because capitalism worked. The 'conditions of the working man' (the improvement of which Disraeli had set as the Conservative Party's mission) were raised and continue to rise.
We will continue to see the myth of the working-class Tory peddled - the idea that independence, self-reliance, hard work, decency and choice represent some sort of misplaced confidence in the capitalist system, a confidence that will fail the working man. And the belief that some syndicalist wonderland will come forth from the casting aside of capitalism.
Those values - working class Tory values - that the left rejects are in the soul of the Conservative Party. But we are, above everything, pragmatic and know that the consequence of Frank Owen's system is not Utopia but Venezuela.