I grew up in Western India, traditionally a conservative stronghold, but right wing ideas tended not to be articulated in the local English language press. I grew up with two duelling ideologies; a private, conservative point of view, and a publicly expressed left leaning line of thought.
Though I held conservative principles, I was not emboldened to become a political conservative until I went to university in Australia, a university which had a strong left wing voice, and where I found myself stigmatised because I was ‘an international student whose rich parents were paying my way into university with full overseas fees’. Even as I was getting first class grades and my self-employed father was working eighteen hour days so I could attend the university to provide me with the education I needed to excel.
I am a conservative because conservatism does not use class or accidents of birth to differentiate between people and apply different standards to them.
I am a conservative because I dislike the political correctness that accompanies much current thinking on the left. I trained as a historian, with a doctorate in colonial British history; and I found repeatedly that I was not allowed to voice my honest opinions, opinions backed up by empirical research. It got to the point where historical accuracy was sacrificed because they were deemed to be out of sync with current academic approaches.
I am a conservative because conservatism is not homogenous. What may pass for a conservative ideal, in that it draws upon long established custom and tradition, in one part of the world might be a radical concept for people in other parts of the world.
Conservatism is flexible and responsive to local needs and I’ve grown to believe ever more strongly in localism; in the inter-dependent networks that flourish at the community level, and the resultant opportunities for personal and professional growth.
When I was growing up, most people around me were self-employed, with their personal and professional lives intertwined, and I could see how it was much more enriching to work at a job which directly impacted those around you, rather than be a cog in a soulless bureaucratic machine.
However, and this is crucial, I also believe in the autonomy of the individual, and their right to make changes which would make them happier, and conservatism as an ideology is also about respecting individual liberty and not coercing them into doing, or not doing, things.
So, I am a conservative because conservatism supports entrepreneurship and the free market. Give someone a job, and you give them a job. Enable someone to set up their own business, and they not only support themselves and their family, but also their employees and their families- and create jobs in the process.
Finally, I am a conservative because I think traditions often have much good in them. I am a conservative because I want the world to respect the woman who chooses to stay at home with her children, as much as it respects the woman who goes out and reaches the top of a previously men-only profession.
Dhara Anjaria worked as a historian at several institutions and published widely on the British Empire. Follow her on Twitter: @DharaAnjaria
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.