Why would a working-class person ever vote for the Conservative Party?
Philip Smith tells us how his life experiences led him to supporting the Conservative Party.
This appears to be the topical question following the Labour party’s heavy defeat in the 2019 General Election. I am often asked this question having grown up in poverty on a working class estate in Leeds. My parents earned very little and rented from the council what many of my friends called the small ‘shoe box’ house. I shared a bedroom with my two brothers. Until 2001 I had always considered myself to be a supporter of the Liberal Democrats, there was something particularly appealing about Charles Kennedy Liberal strand, and it was simply inconceivable that anyone would vote Conservative in our Labour neighbourhood following the 1995 Hyde Park Leeds riots, which pushed our part of Leeds into further hardship.
However, this all changed for me in 2004, his name was Michael Howard. During this chapter of my life I was bullied at High School. The individual in question lived locally and would spit at me in the street and be a general nuisance to anyone that questioned his behaviour. I eventually found the courage to turn around and when he was hitting me in the stomach in a sports class, I defended myself and hit him back. The only time in my life I recall being sent to detention as a result! The individual in question is now in jail having stabbed his own grandmother to death. My only regret was not punching him harder.
This incident along with the local gangs and drug related crime left me constantly feeling vulnerable and scared whenever I had to walk through my own council neighbourhood to get home, I looked at the failure of ASBOS (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders) and came to the quick conclusion that Labour were not the party to address this issue. Then doing something unthinkable I secretly joined the Conservatives telling no one for almost a year. The only reason, at the time, was my belief in Michael Howard’s determination to address the wave of anti-social behaviour that I was personally being subjected to.
I would like to say things improved however in 2005 my family and I were forced to move out of our home when I was 17 as a direct result of my parent’s lives being threatened by a known drug distributor. I will never forget the evening when the said individual set his dog upon our helpless cat mauling him to death. It was July 2005. When my parents called the police not a single officer turned up, the reason being that they were all down the road raiding the bomb factory used to make the suicide vests used in the 7th July 2005 attack in London that tragically killed 52 innocent people.
Returning to the question posted in this article, whilst I have since branched out into supporting lower taxes, conservation and will be passionately campaigning to see a reduction in the number of politicians that we sent to Westminster (and the over bloated House of Lords), for me it has chiefly always been about the fact Labour did not provide the tools for protection when my family were at our most vulnerable. Norman Tebbit ‘Get on your bike’ mantra has stuck with me ever since I faced the most testing period of my life. This mentality is what continues to guide me today, working hard and providing support to those that are not in a position to help themselves.
The Labour party could yet bounce back but until they learn to reconnect with the working class, I am in no doubt that I will continue to be joined by hundreds of thousands of people in supporting the party that is best placed to tackle the injustices faced when growing up in poverty; for right now that is the Conservative Party.
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