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Once a blue…

Submitted by on May 8, 2015 – 9:51 pmNo Comment

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By Jacamo Red

“Alright Sir? Voting Tory on Thursday? Good man! Take some posters and stick them in the staff room Sir!”
“Alright Miss? Voting Tory on Thursday? Why the hell not! Well have a poster anyway!”

That was me a couple of days before the election in 2005. I was an acne riddled, greasy skinned 15 year old and I had the cheek telling adults who knew a lot more than I did about how things worked who to vote for in the upcoming election. We have had 8 years of New Labour, and now it was time for Michael Howard to lead the way. This was the first bit of political activism I remember getting involved in, and not long after I joined the Conservative Party, and now here I am as a 25 year old not quite believing that this episode of my life ever happened.

As far as I was concerned I was just following in the footsteps of my father, and his father, and his father’s father etc. All came from working class stock in North London. My dad grew up in a council flat sharing a room with his 2 siblings. His dad was a delivery driver for the London Evening Standard, but my father is what you would consider a Thatcher success story – he broke the mould and made a successful career for himself in the City as a trader. He worked bloody hard to get there, but there is no doubt the free market reforms of Thatcher opened up the City of London and people like my dad were able to make a career in an industry usually shut off to them. I was a child of Thatcher.

I grew up in comfortable, middle class surroundings in various Essex towns bordering North East London and if I am honest my first experience with politics that I remember was not until the morning after the 1997 general election. Tony Blair had won, and the news was full of pictures of people cheering waving Union Jacks, yet there was my dad looking pretty bloody pissed off. I asked him why, shaking his head he said something along the lines as “They are in son and will be for a long time. It’s not good.”

Looking back, when I was a 15 year old thrusting leaflets into the hands of teachers, I didn’t know any better – I was a Tory because my dad was a Tory. The newspapers read at home were the Telegraph and (occasionally) the Mail, and like most sons I usually took what my dad said as gospel. However, as I got older, I made the independent decision to join the Party (something which my dad wasn’t) and I got more involved in campaigning.

I loved debating with my (left wing) friends and as is still the case I could start an argument in an empty room. I was passionate about politics and I was proud to wear my blue rosette and pound the streets canvassing. At university I set up my Uni’s first ever Conservative Future society, I stood as a paper candidate (when you are in seats just to make up the numbers) twice and regularly attended events and speeches from prominent MPs. I was a Tory and had no shame in admitting it – of all the Parties it was the Tories I mostly identified with.

In 2012 I even went to the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. And you know what? On the whole I had a great time. I loved the debates, the speeches and most importantly the free alcohol. Despite this, conference also confirmed to me a nagging feeling I always had in the back of my mind – the Conservative Party just did not want people like me to be a member. I was sneered at for having the cheek to wear jeans during David Cameron’s speech and shouted at for wearing a Palestinian pin badge on my lapel. You see, I wasn’t your normal, stereotypical Tory.

I was a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, I was a republican, I was (at the time) earning less than £18,000 a year and had only just come out of a job flipping burgers for minimum wage, I was (and still am) a Trade Unionist, I believed in abolishing the House of Lords and unlike other members, I actually seemed to realise why the Party was disliked so much in various parts of the country and that it needed to make amends, or at the least show a bit of compassion.

Me becoming more involved with the Party coincided with David Cameron becoming leader. For someone who knew even in my teens that the Party needed to rebrand (or detoxify) itself I lapped up everything Cameron said. When I campaigned during the 2010 election I felt that he was a real positive force for change. Here I am five years later questioning how on earth I could have been so bloody naïve. Since getting into power all he has done is take the Party further and further Right in the hope to stop wavering voters from voting UKIP. Did I really want to be part of a Party that was trying its best to court those who thought the answer was an openly bigoted Party?

My views on other issues were also evolving – I’ve never been a Socialist, however they say nothing makes you more “left wing” than a Conservative government. I criticised the bedroom tax, I criticised that under the current government the safety net of the welfare state was either too low, or in other parts had massive, gaping holes in it or worse, was completely non existent. I also came to the conclusion that I had absolutely naff all in common with the vast majority of members.

There is a stereotype of Tory members, and that stereotype largely exists for a reason. On the occasions I went to local Party meetings venting my frustrations to whoever would listen. I’d never met a group of people so out of touch with reality than I have within the Conservative Party – particularly at a local level who more often than not came across as nasty, single minded bigots obsessed with the European Union, immigration, the ‘sanctity of marriage’ and with a constant and natural distrust of young people and what seemed like a constant suspicion of Muslims. Are all Tories like this? Of course not, but the vast majority of members I met are just completely out of touch with reality.

Regardless of this, I carried on as a member with a focus of trying to create a Conservative Friends of Palestine. As it turned out, to no avail. Despite receiving a large list of prominent MPs, Lords and MEPs from a Palestinian charity who might be interested. All refused to join for different reasons, all of the reasons very flaky.

That was it for me. For months I had grown disillusioned with David Cameron pandering to the old guard, pandering to the likes of Nigel Farage. He was suppose to be a morderniser! I was sickened with the constant belittling of the disabled, the unemployed and immigrants. It had taken me a long time, but finally my senses were awoken.

So what about me now? I miss Party politics, but as someone said to me recently, in Parties you tend to only get two kinds of people – the careerist looking to snake their way up the Party ladder, and the deluded volunteer. Despite this, I am still passionate about politics and campaigning and trying to do what I see is the right thing. I attend regular marches for Palestine and attend regular marches against the far right in London.

Anyone who follows me on twitter will know I am still vocal for what I believe in, and make sure everyone knows it. I have realised not to be so naïve when it comes to politicians making grand statements or promises, to not put my vote or support for a particular political Party purely down to blind faith and an undying sense of loyalty (you will only ever get disappointed). I will be more sceptical. more independent and even more free thinking, and I doubt I will ever vote Conservative ever again. Which reminds me, does anyone need a blue rosette? Still in pristine condition and only one owner.

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