I am centre-left politically, and I would have preferred a different result from the recent election. On Facebook, a post caught my eye:
“Just so we are clear on this, if you are a Conservative supporter or voter you are supporting a government that would at most feign contrition if I died, […] The welfare state as it has been was barely enough to keep me alive. If you voted for these people you voted for me to die, and you have no excuse. […] English isn’t my first language, but I’m still /safe/ until the racial purity laws come in […] I am absolutely convinced that a Conservative government will kill more people in this category than a left-wing one. ” – Alex Brett
The poster above cannot empathise with a person that voted Tory, and similar levels of hostility to Tory voters is very visible in online discourse. In the interests of promoting dialogue and understanding, I asked some of my right-wing friends the question “What do you like about the Tories?”, with their contributions remaining anonymous. I would like to thank those friends for their generous and insightful responses. Responses have been edited slightly for length.
Respondent One (healthcare professional):
“Suffice to say I like low taxes. I like people being rewarded themselves for hard work and graft. I also don’t like the NHS as is, and strangely, and controversially, would like to see it move towards more of a socialised insurance based system akin to France’s. This will mean increasing the percentage of GDP spending on healthcare, but it also means a complete rethink of the NHS model rather than putting it on a pedestal all the time.
“It’s not that I don’t like the NHS; I just think it can be run better, more efficiently, and I think a lot of people take it for granted. Ask any clinician, especially in front line services, and they’ll say that if people valued healthcare more and understood what is an illness and what isn’t that would save a lot of time, and everyone knows time is money.
“Also, NHS Direct is bloody pointless. What a useless service – that needs to be changed.
“I also prefer the Tories’ foreign policy. We are in the most volatile period since the Cold War, and Pax Americana can only exist with the help of NATO partners. Removing Trident from a permanent Security Council member would not be a smart thing to do, especially as we are probably the second most important member of NATO as well.
“However, I am anti-Tory with regard to their “justice” policies. Legal aid potentially being abolished I am against. But I’m not too worried about the Human Rights Act, because the plans are not too abolish, but to amend – and as long as we still follow the EU courts we will have the same protection. I’m very pro-Europe, but I’m also pro-referendum. Vox populi and all that.”
“Cara has very kindly asked me to contribute to her blog on this subject, however the request came with some caveats: she’s looking for positivity, less than 500 words and not an essay with loads of footnotes.
“Now I don’t object to this, but the answer is… it’s complicated. And whereas you can easily boil down the offering from the left-wing or so-called progressive parties to the apparently unobjectionable premise that the state should spend money supporting the vulnerable in society and creating conditions for equality (well more or less anyway); the Conservative approach necessarily, in my opinion, has to make some really quite subtle and difficult arguments to convince people that it is a political movement which will make the world a better place.
“The simple, sloganeering version of Conservatism can indeed come across as callous, but the devil (or angel if you like) is in the detail, and it’s the detail that gets left out in the simple version. Unfortunately, this does not suit the way we communicate in this day and age, which I think explains why the Internet is not a happy place for Tories. I am not by the way suggesting that all progressives are too stupid to understand the subtleties of Conservative argument. In broad terms I am suggesting that when it comes to educated, left-wing people, Conservatives have a communication problem. Equally I’m not suggesting that your average Tory is too thick and mean to support policies for anything other than self-interest, rather that they understand things through intuition and experience which they would not necessarily be able to articulate in the aforementioned footnoted essay. Damn, only 200 words left. Told you this would be hard.
“So, with that borne in mind, I’m going to try and do the good quick version of why voting Tory at the last election does not make me, de facto, a cunt. Happy face. Let’s get bullet pointy.
It’s about the big picture:
There are Tory policies which I find individually objectionable or at least incompetent- the so-called Snooper’s charter, the proposed five year threshold on benefits for migrants, the right to buy, even the bedroom tax; but I look at the whole bundle of policies and especially the biggest national questions and I think there’s a good deal to be positive about: the raising of the tax threshold to£12500, providing 7 day a week access to the NHS and increasing its budget by 8 billion, cutting corporation tax (in the last parliament), increasing the number of free schools and academies, Trident, giving people a say on the EU.</li> * <p style="margin-bottom: 0.35cm; line-height: 115%;"> It’s the economy. </p> i) We have a real difference of opinion about the effect of some policies. Obviously austerity has been a big question. But truly, truly I think the left wing have it wrong on the economy as a whole, and the Tories have got it right. A rising tide carries all boats. And yes I did read this blog http://benjaminstudebaker.com/2015/05/02/britain-for-the-love-of-god-please-stop-david-cameron/. And yes I did understand it. And no it’s still not right. I would need dozens of graphs and footnotes to show this because the argument is quite sophisticated. So a simple point: why do all the growth charts apart from one, highly misleading one, stop in 2012? ii) On the economy, it’s also about the long term. I accept that increased public spending would make people happier in the short term, but over the next one or two economic cycles it’s a different matter.</li> * <p style="margin-bottom: 0.35cm; line-height: 115%;"> It’s about where you come from, philosophically. </p></ol> <p style="margin-left: 0.64cm; margin-bottom: 0.35cm; line-height: 115%;"> The left holds equality as the supreme goal of its policymaking. I’m a libertarian. Personally, I find the vision of a country where an environment is created in which you are free to be the author of your own destiny a far more uplifting and positive vision than one where everybody is the same. (I realise that this is a grossly condensed characterization of both sides…). At the moment, of the main political parties, I think the Tories are the most libertarian. </p> “Oh dear, I’m already well over the limit and there are so many more points I could make. So here’s my summary. There Tories are by no means perfect and I disagree with plenty of their policies, but on the big questions and ideas I mostly agree.” ## _Respondent Three:_ “So, Tories… “The main reason I am somewhat in favour of them is to do with our unsustainable debt levels. Running further deficits at this point, coupled with the change in market sentiment that would come from being the kind of country that doesn’t take funding itself seriously, would shortly make it impossible for us to fund even a fraction of the public services we now enjoy (see also: Greece). “The second reason is that they’re pro-business and pro-banking in a time when you basically have to take what you can get in terms of where your revenue comes from. What others (notably the Greens) say about the country being too dependent on the financial sector is very true and very important, but the time to shake things up is not when you have no money to fix it again if it all goes horribly wrong. “I disagree with them on a few things: Obviously EU referendum but that’s just because I don’t trust the common man to make the right choice… Level of personal income tax which should certainly be at least 50p at some incomes… And, finally, they have some backbenchers who hold some fairly repulsive views (being in a coalition which held a meaningful majority meant David Cameron could ignore them in favour of Liberal support, but now they hold real sway which worries me).”