A French, Panafricanist lady, who temporarily left the party in her usual bombastic manner in the summer, declaring her flame to the British Conservative party once again! Brace yourselves…
I moved to Britain ten years ago from France in which I had lived for six years, initially as a University student fresh from the Ivory Coast, in West Africa. At the time, I did not really know how long I would stay in Britain. I had briefly considered moving to Germany whose language I was more fluent in, and where I had lived briefly as an intern in Frankfurt in 2001.
Someone had murmured to me that there were good wages to be made in Britain as a healthcare assistant. I had been an excellent achiever at school, and later on in Higher Education, but the humiliating glare of the French welfare state and its inconsistencies had somehow stripped me of my self-confidence. I decided that if becoming a healthcare assistant in Britain would liberate me from the tyranny of the Egalitarian French regime, I would take a chance.
To cut a long story short, I did not become a healthcare assistant immediately: I was a catering assistant, a sales advisor and a bookseller initially in London. And then, three years into my adventure in Britain, I took a chance and embarked on the most rewarding but also draining career I would find myself to be undertaking, as a Health Care Assistant. Seven years later, I am now finally embracing my dream of journalism and thinking myself as a social entrepreneur.
All this while, having always had an interest in politics and history, I had gradually become an honorary citizen of this country. I started understanding its fabric, its differences and similarities to France, its profoundly Conservative nature, its rich history counted through hours of reading books both fiction and non fiction, watching cookery shows, period dramas, history documentaries, news programs such as Newsnight, the Andrew Marr Show and the brilliant series by Simon Schama: A history of Britain.
I had been supportive of the French equivalent of the Conservative party and had voted proudly for Nicolas Sarkozy, hoping he would be the architect of the French Republic’s reinvention and adaptation to the 21st century. One or two bling bling scandals later and my dreams laid in tatters. In hindsight, I concluded that his mission had been an almost impossible task as France is in my opinion, a profoundly Socialist country, which will resist any attempt at rolling back its overpowering State machine.
Would the British Conservatives offer me the alternative I had sought? Would they offer me a narrative which would validate my own system belief? I would need to write another piece to explain how I had come to see welfare dependency as a form of enslavement, which a freedom lover like me could never subjugate herself to. I believed that for those with relatively good health, having a career was always better as it offered in return the dignity, the sense of self-worth, and the idea that one was a member of society with rights and responsibilities.
Funnily enough, this value of work, and its role as an agent of social cohesion had been illustrated by a French philosopher: Jean-Jacques Rousseau. I had moved to Britain the year that David Cameron had been elected Conservative leader and I was liking what I was hearing. I understood how a Tony Blair led Labour had been seen as a breath of fresh air to the very perspicacious British public in the 1990s. They had characteristically given a break to the Tories for them to renew their ideological offering.
Here was a leader who was pledging the concept of the “Big Society”, otherwise known as localism, which encapsulated my idea of a perfect society. In a way, it related to the kind of society I used to pride myself in having grown up in Africa. A society in which communities pulled together and found innovative solutions to their many struggles. They were not waiting on the State, In the case of my country, there was no such thing as a welfare state.
I saw it positively, though being from a middle class background, some might argue that it was easier for me to say so. I would always object to that. Although my father had become an airline pilot and had therefore earned a good income, he had not been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He had been one of those kids which Western media loves parading in its biased reporting of Africa, born in a hut, to utterly poor and uneducated parents. It had been through his hard work, discipline and resilience that he had successfully crossed all the bridges which had enabled him to become comfortable. Therefore, I believed this to be the best possible way for unlocking people’s potential.
A hand up, not a hand out, was what the Conservative party was pledging through the work the Centre for Social Justice, and this was exactly what my own story in Britain was turning out to be. I had lived here for eight years, and was earning on a monthly basis, 20 times the amount I had landed here with. Every step of the way, my hard work, determination to succeed and adaptability had been rewarded.
I had used the same recipe in France to much less success, and this is not a French bashing article as I believe that my own agency had also played a part in those failures. I had matured in Britain, and therefore, I was better able to seize the opportunities available here. I continue to say that as an under 25, non-white woman who has not finished her higher education is better off in Britain than in France in the 21st century. This might explain the exodus towards London of the French youth who are also embracing Britain in their droves.
The Conservatives came to power, as part of the coalition with the Lib Dems, and much as I would rather have seen the localism agenda take off a lot more and the State being pushed back, I applaud the performance of this first administration. I trust the second one with pushing forward with the long term economic recovery plans, and to handle the upcoming referendum in a unifying manner. I have no say in the matter, as a foreigner, but I will be campaigning for Brexit, having acquired the certitude that this is the only option for a forward looking Britain, which will hopefully create a chain reaction on the continent.
Here I am, being part of Britain once again reinventing freedom and leading the way in this manner which has ensured that this country has tended to be on the right side of history more often than not.
I am also a traditionalist, and was always a big fan of the British monarchy. Queen Elizabeth I is the ultimate role model of female leadership; her life journey and political career is an inspiration. It is this love of tradition, first and foremost African traditions and culture for which I am an arch ambassador and defender of, which also makes me a natural Conservative. I believe in conserving old ways, passing them on from one generation to another, being proud of one’s cultural heritage and uncompromising in the defence of one’s country and civilisation.
I have a lot of admiration for the manner in which Britain averted the bloodbath of the French revolution, whilst evolving towards a political model which in my opinion truly symbolises the values of Liberte-Fraternite-Egalite. This is happening without a written constitution, with a Monarch as Head of State, and a Parliamentary system which I hope will inspire many countries in Africa, in the move away from the stuffy Presidentialism and its many undemocratic ways.
I would like to see the Conservative party truly advocate free market principles and a much more reduced involvement of the State in the delivery of social policy. I would like this Conservative government to be the one which leads the world into changing its ways towards my land of origin: Africa. I would like for the Conservative party to see Africa as a hub of opportunities and wealth creation in a mutually beneficial way, away from the old paternalistic ways inherited from the colonial era. I also wish to see this Conservative party to be the one which changes Britain’s overall stance in terms of foreign policy.
I believe that when a country is ranked as the world’s top soft power, and when at one point in history, it had the largest empire in the World, it has a duty to use both this history and this position, to advance the cause of a truly multipolar world in which free trade, not aid or militaristic adventures, guarantee prosperity.
Those are the battles I will be waging as part of the broad church and the big family which is the British Conservative party. I have qualified for the past five years for a British citizenship and I deliberately decided not to apply for one, as I am very critical of the concept of multiculturalism. I believe that should I become a British citizen, I would have to give my entire loyalty to Britain and to stand shoulder to shoulder with her, even if she was in conflict with Africa. I refuse to promise the impossible to Britain, as much as I love this country dearly for having given me a second chance, but home is MAMA AFRICA. I hope to help dispel some of the myths around the Conservative party which I believe to be the natural Home of Africans. So long as the party is prepared to meet Africans half way.
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