Young, Northern, Working Class…Thatcherite. As I entered secondary school, this is what my left wing teachers were presented with and what smashed their stereotypes to pieces.
I was born in the local hospital North West town of Oldham (where I continue to live today) in Greater Manchester in June 1999. I’ve lived in the same two bedroom terraced house for most of my life and I’ve always gone to state education. My mum works for the local council taking minutes in meetings, my dad works in the freezer for a food delivery company, my maternal grandparents are retired Chip Shop owners, my paternal grandparents worked in the local hospital as cleaners and porters and not one of them have a single political bone in their body.
My love of politics came from a love of history. From an age of about 7, I could spend hours reading books and watching programmes about the triumphs and defeats of our country and the great leaders who blazed a trail through the history books and made an everlasting mark on the world. I especially took an interest in the notable women throughout history, women like Elizabeth I, Golda Meir, Eva Peron, Emmeline Pankhurst and Sylvia Plath. It was inevitable, through this interest, that I would eventually stumble across a woman who continues to contribute to my political beliefs to this day.
One of the first things I noticed about Margaret Thatcher when I first came across her aged 11 was the severity of emotion on both sides of the argument. I started to wonder why her supporters glorified her so much and why her detractors despised and loathed her so much. So, me being me, I started reading, I started watching, I did my research. I was left completely amazed by what I found. I found myself reading about a woman who was born above a corner shop in Lincolnshire, who went to Oxford University at a time when so few women did, who pushed and shoved and shouted her way through a world of men. I instantly thought she was the most remarkable woman.
Then I went further into what this towering figure actually believed in. needless to say, it left me inspired. Personal responsibility. Small state and government. Liberation of the individual. Low taxation. Private property. Free markets. A country where every man, woman and child can be anything they want to be if they work for it, a country of equality of opportunity. At the time, the idea that there was life outside of the nationalised economy was ‘radical’ and ‘dangerous’. It still powers my beliefs today. The idea that the shackles of socialism should always be shaken of and broken.
I was sat there wondering how anyone could be so vehemently opposed to these ideas, ideas that to me, despite me being so young, sounded like such basic common sense. So, once again, I went off into a world of research. I read up on the Labour Party, the British left and the ideas of socialism and communism which Maggie so abhorred.
What I found was a politics of envy. I found an unbelievable record of failures, incompetence, blunders. I even in some cases found a crass middle class snobbery and disregard for the importance of the identity of Britishness. Someone once said that the socialist definition of equality was that if you have any common sense you mustn’t show it because it might put other off. But what surprised me most about these so called equality crusaders and compassionate, caring, freedom lovers was that a high number of them were over brimming with complete burning hatred for anyone and everyone who disagreed with them in the slightest.
I think a lot of the hatred still come from the Thatcher days. Not because of what she believed or the policies she implemented, but because she appealed to people who the Left saw as ‘their people’, but had grown tired of the nationalisation, of the strikes, of the post war consensus. Lifelong Labour voters who’d had enough of the nanny state and failing finances and deserted their party for the Tories
Think about it. How many times have you been called ‘tory scum’? How many times have you had abuse hurled at you on the campaign trail? How many times have you been told your views are evil and been given personal abuse because of them? Personally, I’ve lost count.
Only a few months ago, the Labour MP for Chesterfield Toby Perkins stated on Twitter that “You Tories never understand how much we hate you. Many Labour MPs motivated to get into politics to stop you”. How are we supposed put our trust in people who only go into politics because they hate their opposition? Surely, anyone going into politics top reasons for doing so should be convictions, passion and the desire to represent, not hatred.
At this point, after about 6 months of on and off research, I had very firmly decided that the Labour Party, who were supposed to be the party for working class northern lads like me, did not represent me. Families like mine had been voting Labour for more than 100 years and they were still working class. I had come to realise that I most certainly wasn’t a socialist and I most certainly was a conservative. More specifically, I was a social and economic liberal.
Shortly after this, I started secondary school. I went in there with a brain full of Thatcherism, libertarianism and meritocratic capitalism and I can say without a flicker of exaggeration that I gained hatred from some teachers as a result. I quickly realised that this was war. Me vs the left wing teachers union consensus.
The fighting started more or less straight away. I was told not to read conservative books and publications such as the Times or the Telegraph ‘in case it caused offence’. I ignored them. So they told me again. And again. And again. Eventually they gave up. I think that’s when they first realised ‘this one’s going to be tricky’. And so it went on…
April 2013: Our school had a thing of giving a special assembly when an important world figure passed away, so when Maggie died I assumed this would be the case. But when I wrote to the head teacher asking to contribute to the assembly, I was told that there would not be any mention of her because a lot of teachers didn’t like her. I was livid. I marched myself to my head teacher’s office and told her straight that I wouldn’t go to the bi-daily assembly until her death was recognised. I was baffled that someone whose ideas had played major part in international politics for over 40 years was just going to be ignored. I continued my boycott of assemblies until the day of Maggie’s funeral when I finally decided to go. I went all the way through thinking I’d lost as she hadn’t been mentioned. Then at the end, the head teacher started the prayers with ‘today we pray for Baroness Thatcher whose funeral is today’. For a moment I was slightly shocked, but then I smiled to myself. I had won again.
June 2013: the National Union of Teachers announce a strike across the North West. The teachers thought this would shut me up. So I planned a one-pupil protest outside my school on the day of the strike. My school were horrified by my plans and went out of their way to discourage me. They said I’d make myself look stupid. Apparently standing up for your beliefs makes you stupid (unless you’re a socialist). They told me that no one would listen to me and my action would simply go unnoticed. So I made sure they listened. I made my protest known on social media and on the day itself, a reporter from my local newspaper came to my protest, I gave them an interview and it was published.
When I finally left school, a teacher told me I ‘had left a mark on the school that will be there for many years; a big, blue, privately owned mark’. They meant it as an insult. To me it was a compliment.
Now, at the age of 16, I’m a deputy chairman for North West CF, a committee member for my local Conservatives and an A-Level Politics, Philosophy and Sociology student. And what a journey it has been.
I’m a conservative because I don’t care about gender, race, religion, sexuality or class. I really don’t. if you’re prepared to work hard and look after your family, if you want to live in a world where a grocers daughter can end up in the highest office in the land, if you want to be a citizen of a country where ‘business’, ‘competition’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ are not dirty words, if you believe that the state can’t solve everything and, most importantly, if you believe that our people should not and will not accept a high tax, high inflation, nationalised country, then I am on your side.
Tom Hulme is the Deputy Chairman (Membership) of North West Conservative Future and a committee member of the Oldham and Saddleworth Conservative Federation. Follow him on Twitter: @Thatherite4
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty