I once ran a blog called ‘Keep Right Online’ with a chap called Oliver Cooper. He went on to be, and I’m sure he won’t even mind me saying so, the sycophantic Chairman of the Conservative Future (aka Tory Youth) group.
These are the guys and gals you might see in Westminster pubs, checking in on Facebook, declaring how “delighted” and/or “honoured” they are to be spending their Friday nights with other party activists in the pub. Obviously, they’ll always use their full job titles. How riveting it must be to be delighted by attending the Red Lion with the Deputy Vice Chairperson for Conservative Future Twatford-upon-Cheese Branch. Really. Delightful.
Cooper once said to me, “If we get enough people together, we should defect en masse to the Libertarian Party (UK).” Being naive, and wanting to rock the boat as I always try to, I agreed.
But Cooper’s enthusiasm for such an move soon fell away, as David Cameron became more of a liberal, and the ‘libertarians’ inside of the Conservative Party figured it was good enough, shrugged their shoulders and thought: “Meh, it’s easier to stick around.”
Now of course, there is frankly very little ‘conservative’ about the Conservative Party. Another colleague of mine told me he was backing Hillary Clinton, “as most Tories are” for U.S. president, because they are members of the “Conservative Party” rather than being small-c conservatives – and don’t believe in what the Republican Party offers to America. I wish someone would tell Republican activists that. Or even the higher ups that the ‘in town’ Tories always seek meetings with. Perhaps the assistance that has always been so forthcoming from the U.S. to the Tory Party might well find itself somewhere else.
So how do these young, sheep-like ‘Tories’ square their membership of the Conservative Party away? Well, by shouting, “Thatcher! Freedom! Sound!” and very rarely having their philosophical views challenged.
“Why are you in the Conservative Party?” I have often asked people. Or “What makes you a conservative?” The answers that I have heard over the years have been truly terrifying.
Maybe a few – and I really do mean the minority – have had what I would say are reasonable responses. I once thought that being in favour of small government was one such response. But when you hear some libertarians in the Conservative Party get challenged, you really do start to wonder what’s going on. There isn’t very much in the way of deeply held traditional values. Certainly quite the opposite. But that’s ok, because the party doesn’t require you to be a conservative to me a member, candidate, or MP.
In fact, it frowns upon it.
Of course, the worst response I ever heard was “for a job”. Quite literally. And distressingly, the culprit was none other than Paul Abbott, who was the chief of staff to the Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps throughout the election period.
Abbott, known as “Pinko Paul” to some that he counts as friends, told me when I first met him that he “would be in the Labour Party” were it not for him having been offered a job with the now Tory Deputy Chairman Robert Halfon MP.
Another Tory activist recently lectured me about my public persona. He said he was “into politics to make friends”. Well, as much as you can meet one decent person in a thousand in politics, I’m not trying (shock horror, you might think) to make friends in this industry. Anyone who is strikes me as quite disturbed. It’s not exactly the friendliest of environments, and politicos tend to be people who just can’t get employed anywhere else in life, including me, I would imagine.
I got into politics because I believe in something. It’s not just “free markets” – as groups like Conservatives for Liberty subscribe to, in the hope that they can therefore call themselves “right wing”. It is ideas from across the conservative spectrum, such as support for family life, strong defences, crime and justice, and the protection of individual and religious freedoms.
Holding just one of these views may allow you to vote Conservative, or to be fair, and better, UKIP. But it doesn’t make you a ‘conservative’ – a fact I think it sadly lost of a lot of Tory Youth activists.
It used to alarm me, being attacked by my ‘fellow right wingers’, but now I realise that actually, with socialism a defunct ideology, it is really liberalism, and its cousin libertarianism, if unchecked, that pose the greater threat to conservatism. This is of course in stark contrast to most of the Conservative voters and indeed branch members outside of major towns and cities, who are still conservatives. This is evidenced by the fact that so many of these people have either left for UKIP, or who refuse to campaign on behalf of the modern Conservative Party.
We may have a Conservative Party Prime Minister in Great Britain. But we don’t have a conservative prime minister. We may have a Conservative Party, and groups with Conservative in their names. But I’ve yet to see much evidence that they hold conservative, and not left-liberal, principles.