The Labour party was founded specifically to represent the interests of the working man, so it is hardly surprising that those in the DE and C2 social groups are far more likely to vote Labour. However, if you consider the behaviour, culture, desires, fashions and tastes of the British working class there is but one conclusion to draw – They are natural born conservatives.
The British working class displays an innate, unadulterated individualism that is evident in all aspects of life. Picture the school rebel, the stereotypical low-achiever from a single-parent family beset by social problems who spends all 12 years of his formal education sticking two fingers up to the powers that be. There can be no purer rejection of authoritarianism.
Their struggle represents a ceaseless pursuit of individual liberty in the face of rules imposed for the collective good rather than to promote personal growth. A fag behind the bike sheds is not the first step on the path to oblivion, it is a defiant assertion of freedom and a refusal to submit to perceived injustice. An aversion to state intrusion begins even before school. New middle class parents look forward to the arrival of the Health Visitor, eager to ask questions about breastfeeding techniques, sensory awareness and sleep patterns.
There is a pervasive reluctance to engage with the state in all areas of life unless absolutely necessary, this means ‘Cash-in-Hand’ is always preferable and disputes are settled outside of the courts whenever possible. And can you really blame them? When the state taxes and regulates pretty much everything they enjoy doing. Sin taxes hit the working man more than anyone else in society, whether it’s alcohol, tobacco, gambling or now even sugar. Is there any area of working class pleasure left untaxed? Maybe one day ‘The Bedroom Tax’ could mean something completely different.
The working class also possesses a glorious disregard for political correctness. Regrettably this can sometimes cross the line, but thinking the unthinkable and saying the unsayable ensures a freedom of debate that is totally alien to the suburban dinner party set and allows an analysis of current affairs that often cuts to the heart of the matter, free from the numbing fear that offence could be caused. As a forum for open and honest debate the local Wetherspoons puts Westminster to shame, the antithesis of a student union ‘Safe Space’. Whether wearing a union flag at Wembley or a uniform in Basra the working class exhibits a heartfelt pride in our country that we would be lost without.
Conservative Leaders from Disraeli to Thatcher have appealed to working class patriotism, however, conversely, the common man is also the guardian of ‘Localism’ – the customs, cultures, dialects, accents and dishes that give the UK an indigenous diversity any country would envy. Barmcakes in Blackpool, Bonfire Night in Lewes, Cockney rhyming slang or even the hundreds of thousands who spend Saturday afternoons cheering on their home town team on freezing cold terraces – it is they who preserve our folk heritage and in turn protect the local identities that persist in spite of the relentless march of the homogeneous, standardised state. The working class are the lifeblood of localism, forming organic communities and loyalties which supersede the state apparatus and provide support, security and identity that the state could never equal.
A hundred years of class war rhetoric and 13 years of Blair/Brown welfare bribes have ensured the working class votes Labour but scratch under the surface and you’ll find most working class people are liberty loving, free-market embracing, state resenting Libertarians. The common man doesn’t want revolution, he wants to be left alone to live his life, free from nanny-state diktats and sneering, manipulative taxation. He wants to keep the money he earns and he doesn’t want to feel like a criminal because he spends it on a drink, a smoke, a bet or a turkey twizzler.
At the moment it is Mr. Farage who is exploiting the seam of classical liberalism in our working class, directly addressing their hopes and fears in a fashion that is acceptable for a narrow party of protest but not for a broad party of government. The Tories must make their own, bespoke appeal to this raw yearning for individual self-determination if they are ever to overcome their single biggest electoral handicap – the misguided perception of the Conservatives and conservatism as the exclusive domain of a privileged elite.
To achieve this the party must remember the libertarian values that have served it so well in the past, reducing state interference and giving people control of their lives once more. Given the opportunity the working man will soon realise that suffocating, state control is a poor substitute for the emancipation of genuine economic and social liberty.
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.
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty