Mark Eastwood: Why I am a Conservative


I’m a 44 year old married man with two teenage children, I grew up during the Thatcher years and have been a Conservative supporter and on/off party member since leaving school at 17. Educated at a state comprehensive school, I was brought up by a single parent who worked as a lowly paid nurse at the local hospital, living on a council estate in the predominantly socialist mill town of Batley in West Yorkshire.

At the time, and to her credit, Mrs Thatcher saw the inequality between nurses pay and that paid to police officers and firefighters, something she addressed by raising the earnings of nurses to bring them more in line with other emergency services. Gradually, as a family, our lifestyle began to improve and we became less reliant on state handouts, including free school meals. To a great extent, Mrs Thatcher erased the pay inequality separating the predominantly female nursing fraternity and the predominantly male fire and police services, something my mother, although not politically minded, will always be very grateful for and the reason she voted for Maggie throughout her tenure as Prime Minister.

During Thatcher’s reign, I also saw at first hand how the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme transformed the council estate I lived on. People who weren’t able to afford to buy their own homes were suddenly given the opportunity to get on the housing ladder. They literally took ownership of their lives, had something to be proud of and a sense of self worth. Aspiration was no longer a dirty word.

The reaction from the local Labour Party towards ‘Help to Buy’ also helped form my political beliefs at an early age. They hated the scheme, not because it reduced housing stock for the less well off, which is what they often claim (even now), but because it reduced people’s reliance on the state, in turn making them less inclined to vote for their party. There is an old saying ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’. To me, that sums up the difference between Conservative and Labour principles. Conservatives have always been the ones to give a helping hand to those who want to help themselves, a hand up not hand out. Under the Tories, you work hard, you get rewarded and you achieve the ‘feel good factor’, so often missing when Labour are running the show.

Whilst I’ve always supported the Conservative Party and its principles, I’ve not always agreed on its’ policies. When the Thatcher government introduced Clause 28 banning local authorities from portraying homosexuality in a positive light and outlawed raves under the Criminal Justice Act. As a young, liberally minded, free spirited individual, I disagreed. However I was too busy dancing in a field with my gay friends to care and although I continued to vote Conservative, I became less involved with the party.

Socially, the Conservative Party has come a long way since then with David Cameron at the helm. He has been successful in gradually altering the party’s image away from the so called ‘nasty party’; his support for gay marriage being a major turning point and a pivotal moment for the party, which I wholeheartedly supported. Despite losing some older, more conservative members as a result of the gay marriage bill – most of whom defected to UKIP, taking some of the toxicity of the Tory brand with them – in the long term I believe this important piece of legislation will benefit the party greatly in terms of attracting a wider demographic to join the party ranks.

But the Left have always tried to portray the Conservatives as ‘nasty’, the party for the rich, run by a bunch of toffs and Labour as the party of the working class. Thanks to the good work of high ranking party members like Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Robert Halfon, that particular myth is very quickly being dispelled and the message is getting across that The Conservatives are the true ‘Workers’ Party’ (a phrase coined by Mr Halfon), something I have believed in ever since Tory Chancellor Nigel Lawson made a headline-grabbing 2p cut in income tax in his 1988 budget, a significant reduction, which in my first job since leaving school as a low paid insurance clerk was very noticeable and went some way to enabling me to afford to buy my first car, which in turn broadened my horizons in terms of future job opportunities.

Currently employed as a successful businessman in the manufacturing sector, I’ve witnessed at first hand the turnaround in the UK economy since the horrendous economic crash under Blair/Brown in 2008. George Osborne should take great credit for that and I don’t think it’s any surprise under his stewardship that the UK is leading the way in terms of economic growth, low inflation and high levels of employment. But then again, that’s always been the Conservative way. Labour wreck the economy with reckless spending and high borrowing, the Tories fix it with sensible economic policies and by reducing taxation.

Iain Duncan Smith has also done a fantastic job tackling welfare dependency especially the introduction of the welfare cap and universal credit, although I was a little disappointed the government appeared to lose its nerve with tax credit changes, which would have been a radical, albeit unpopular in the short term, measure. Working in manufacturing, I’ve seen how Working Family Tax Credits can damage a business at peak times, with employees refusing overtime on the basis of losing their benefits. Surely, that cannot be right and is something that will need addressing eventually.

I also believe that Conservatives are the party of personal freedom, individual responsibility and less state interference, despite having some concerns regarding the restricting of press freedom following the Leveson Report and the Draft Communications Data Bill, aka The Snooper’s Charter. With the latter, there is a fine line between protecting the population and the infringement of civil liberties and I’m not convinced that the Tories have quite got that balance right, only time will tell. Thankfully, the government seemed to have kicked the proposed minimum pricing of alcohol and the more recent ‘sugar tax’ idea into the long grass. Let’s hope both of those harebrained schemes remain there.

So there you have it, that’s why I am a Conservative. As a party the Tories may not be 100% perfect, but as Deputy Chairman (political) of The Dewsbury County Conservative Association and as a local council candidate standing in the Kirklees Council ward of Dewsbury East, I shall continue to campaign on behalf of the real ‘workers party’ in Labour’s northern heartland attempting to convince voters that regardless of background, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs, if you want a sound economy, low taxes, personal freedom, less government interference in your life and a sense of self worth, then the obvious clear choice is to vote Conservative.

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.

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty