Elena Attfield: Why I am a Conservative


Recently it has been all too easy to fall into the trap of feeling like a bad human being for being a Conservative. Since the run up to the general election we have been condemned as ‘scum’ – that grim layer of dirt on the surface of a liquid – and this vitriol has escalated as exponentially as the latest fashion trend.

Furthermore, if you were privileged enough to have attended the Conservative Party conference this month, you have by now probably endured the word, alongside accusations of evilness, replaying in your mind. Perhaps even prompting you to search deep down to question whether you really are an evil-minded human being, who has unknowingly gone through life disregarding the plight of the poor.

Had I just woken up one day and decided that I would be a nasty person who would put my efforts into making the country worse? Had I decided that I hated the poor? That I was fine being a “murderer” – a term those hysterical protestors casually threw about?

The answer to all of this is of course: no.

Having found that my values align with those of the Conservative Party at the age of fourteen, I have been fortunate to be afforded sufficient time throughout my education to clarify and revise my views, growing up into adulthood considering both sides of the argument, be it through debating, reading the odd Gordon Brown biography, or the Communist Manifesto itself.

Picture the scene in 2010, when I was indeed just that curious fourteen-year-old: Our Labour-governed country at the time saw 8% unemployment, inflation well above target, a budget deficit of £150billion, Mid-Staffs, grade inflation, housing shortages and our education quality tumbling down the PISA rankings.

Meanwhile, the same Labour Party stood and offered no alternate direction – no credible solution to the ailing economy. At the time, I was of course just a fourteen-year-old drawn to the ongoing election campaign, scrutinising Nick Clegg’s tuition fee promises that had enraptured my naive young friends.

Nonetheless, it was all too clear that the only beacon of light, the only credible and coherent, but not necessarily ear-tickling, solutions were being expressed by the Conservative Party. They were not promising an impossible-sounding panacea to the public, but the bold ideas and willingness to bring the economy back to where it belongs with fiscal prudence and fairness.

The impulse of conservatism is to build a strong, durable society whilst realising the importance of freedom, be that through freeing individuals to be all they can be, or protecting freedom indiscriminately via defence and intervention both home and abroad.

Championing the potential of every human being and placing no barriers, mental or societal, on their realisation of that potential is dear to me as a Conservative. It is important that every individual is treated equally which, as Friedrich Hayek asserted, is so different to attempting to make every individual equal.

Embracing and celebrating our diversity of talents, enthusiasms, identities and levels of skill is vital to humanity, and history has shown that entrepreneurialism, arts, culture and the full advantages of our diversity flourish most when economic freedom and capitalism are at the heart of a government’s belief.

Aspiration politics have long been an integral component of British political culture, especially since the Thatcher days when the working class were afforded the opportunity to better themselves according only to how hard they worked and the merit that elevated them. It is this Thatcherite belief that resonates with me and truly makes me proud to be a Conservative.

Though I appreciate Cameron’s appeal to extend the Conservative brand to moderates on either side of the spectrum in a centrist strategy, it is not the conservatism that inspires me. The conservatism I know works best for our aspirations, our economy, for liberty, social mobility and freedom.

The conservatism I know, that Barry Goldwater talks of profusely in his classic Conscience of a Conservative, is the conservatism of stalwart, yet pragmatic, ideology; being willing and able to achieve the very best for the most whilst shunning the temptation of economic populism.

The morality of conservatism, opportunity and economic freedom, embeds itself in liberal Thatcherism; not in any centre-ground-pleasing statism. Championing the prosperity of capitalism which has, so remarkably, seen extreme poverty halved in only 20 years is vital to ensuring further progress.

Policies of the past post-war consensus era, from which arose dependence and state interference, are completely incompatible with the aspirations of most people today, and regressing back to the politics of envy and economic stagnation are good for no one.

After campaigning in my local constituency for the 2014 European elections, and in several constituencies during the 2015 General Election, I have understood that what most people desire is economic stability, national security and a good standard of living. I do not hesitate to trust that it is the political parties of conservative and free-market ideology who are in the position to deliver these.

Finally, as a devout Christian, recognising free will and each human’s overwhelming individual responsibility to help the poor, I can only align myself with the values expressed within conservatism.

It is all very well calling oneself compassionate for seeking to help the poor, but simple logic tells you that redistributing other people’s money is infinitely inferior to exhibiting compassion by your own individual will and efforts. Also fundamental to the Bible is the acknowledgement that humans are, unfortunately, inherently self-interested, no matter how many good deeds man might commit. It is with this in mind that the famous line comes to mind, that the only means by which you can make selfish people serve others is through the free market.

It is evidenced by the corruption that emerges each time a political leader takes it upon themselves to command the economy or assume the position to steer the lives of the population, as has happened time and time again by authoritarian regimes, resulting often in lost entrepreneurialism, lost job creation, depreciating living standards, severe inflation, or at its historic extremes, famines and genocides. As a consequentialist, but perhaps any rational person, would assert: it is the outcomes of public policy (in this case laissez-faire ones) that matter, not the intentions.

I concede that the Conservative Party in Britain might not be perfectly libertarian or free-market today, but of a selection that includes a disregard for our individual freedom through incessant regulation, a support for nationalisation and public sector service provision no-matter-what and equality-enforcement through gender quotas and punitive tax rates, the current Conservative Party is certainly the best option.

It is the tried and worked policies of fiscal responsibility and private sector entrustment, over hundreds of years, that are rightly the centrepiece of Conservative policy. Abandoning the tried conventions that work, as the Left has always been so willing to do, is actually what disregards the democratic will of the people: for that economic stability, security and prosperity.

It is with this in mind that I can look back to the labels so wrongly attributed to us today and conclude that the cause of conservatism is in no way any of these things – evil-minded, disregarding or nasty – rather it is quite the opposite.

I believe in the conservative aptitude for strengthening the economy, emphasising the family, maintaining national security and championing freedom. These values make me proud to call myself a conservative.

 Elena is a proponent of the free market, enthusiastic about a much smaller role for the state that will facilitate liberty and economic freedom. Spending most of her time fixated on macroeconomic news, she holds some optimism regarding the future of economic liberalism in the world. Follow Elena on Twitter: @ElenaAtt

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