I’ve now been a member of the Conservative and Unionist Party for a little over a year. It was a decisive step that culminated my migration through the political spectrum. I say through and not across because it was not a frictionless process, but a challenging and often disenchanting peregrination.
I became politically active towards the end of high school during the peak of Anti-Blairism. Brimming with adolescent angst and idealism, I associated myself with Stop the War Coalition in 2004. The naivety of youth however, was swiftly obliterated amid the internecine conflict of the parties and platforms involved. I came to learn that revolutionary in the case of far-leftist organisations typically means revolving around the same questions until the members dissipate through nausea.
Determined to maintain my radical credentials, but without the hangover of a previous generation’s politics, I joined the Liberal Democrats in the wave of Cleggmania following 2007 party leadership elections. Despite the Sunshine and Sandals mantra that characterises a majority of party membership, I found an intellectual home among Orange Bookers, dedicated to socially and economically liberal policy solutions.
In 2008 I suffered a health set-back that coincided with the onset of the Great Recession and was forced to quit my job in the construction industry and cease my Diploma studies. What followed next was a three year odyssey through an underworld of despondency, destitution, entitlement and dependency that defines our social welfare system. Though I was fortunate to have the support of family and friends during this time, the experience irrevocably altered my understanding of human nature and illustrated how protecting and promoting the economic and social well-being of our citizens requires more than mere good intentions.
Between the period of unemployment and assuming my current position, for a year I worked in a low-paid occupation at a dilapidated local power station. Here I was introduced to the pettiness and venality that typifies our antiquated and inveterate labour movement. Though I would never dispute the need for workplace organisation and purposeful employment legislation, I have come to believe that labourism as a positive social force is in dire need of reorientation and renewal.
Politically I was delighted by the decision of the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition with the Conservatives following the 2010 General Election. I saw it as a real opportunity to reinvent the state for the 21st Century; to rein in spending, devolve power, and to promote choice and competition in public services. It soon became apparent however that the ambition and maturity displayed by the party leadership was not endorsed by a puerile membership. Injured and insulted, but eternally optimistic, the party soldiered on, as did I.
My Conservative conversion came during the 2014 Scottish referendum through my involvement with the Better Together campaign. Canvassing beside Conservative members and activists it gradually became apparent that I shared many of their political and philosophical values.
My Conservative drift was aided by Lib Dem’s perfunctory patriotism during the campaign. To my mind our rights and liberties do not exist in some abstract symposium, but are inexorably entwined in our national institutions. Thus the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. At a soiree evening to celebrate a victory for the Union, I enquired about the nature and ambitions of the party in Scotland. And liking what I heard, I made the switch a few weeks later.
My journey through the political spectrum has brought me to the conclusion that John Stuart Mill was correct when he suggested an inherent stupidity within Conservative thought. For to be a Conservative is in essence to accept the fallibility of human reason, to embrace the vicissitudes of human nature and to deny the existence of a monopoly of Truth. And as for me, to quote Oscar Wilde; “Personally, I have a great admiration for stupidity”.
This article is part of our ongoing ‘Why I am a Conservative’ series, in which supporters of CfL talk about their beliefs and values. If you would like to take part please email blog@con4lib.