Why I resigned from my membership in the Conservative Party
I joined the Conservative Party as a joke during the spasmodic death-throes of the enfeebled Theresa May. Granted, this isn’t most people’s idea of humour, and in retrospect I am still not sure it was mine. Regardless, I paid the small fee, set up the Direct Debit and got my blue-and-white stripey card in the post. I was now a fully paid up ‘Tory’.
Even then, whilst the firework high of the Brexit vote in 2016 threatened to fizzle out in the obfuscation and delay of May’s Remainer Zombie Parliament, and serious, thoughtful people in the party earnestly called for Meaningful Votes to confirm other, less meaningful votes – namely those of the poor and stupid – I knew that the Tory Party wasn’t really my natural home. After all, my views are both patriotic and conservative, and neither of those concepts are championed by the 21st Century Tories. It was a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Like most people with an ounce of political sentience I realised the end of May was an inevitability. Unlike most people, I joined the Tories in anticipation. Grimly inspired by the ability of Left-Twitter to meme the horrifically inappropriate Jeremy Corbyn to within a Stalinist moustache hair of power, and sighting a leadership contest on the horizon I decided I would have my say. It is at this point that I must make perhaps the most sordid confession of my life. Boris Johnson received 92,153 votes, and mine was one of them.
In my defence, I have still never voted Tory in a general, local or European election. Indeed, despite being a paid-up Tory during the European Elections of 2019 and the General one of the same year, I voted for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party both times. To me, there was no paradox. An overseas reader may think this odd. An American brought up in a true two-party tradition may find being a member of one party but never voting for it absurd. I am happy to cede this; it is absurd, but pragmatism has long been praised as a trait of the British people and I cannot in good conscience vote for a party that hates me. I can, however, try and infiltrate it from within so that I may be able vote for it in the future. Sadly, in 2022 this task too seems utterly Quixotic. The rot has not just set in, it has spread to every organ of the body and deprived it of nourishment. To borrow from Dickens; The Conservative Party was dead, to begin with.
Not that this means they won’t win elections; they are remarkably good at cajoling the electorate. Like battered spouses, the voter is half-heartedly wooed as the election cycle draws to its conclusion. “This time it’ll be different. This time we’ll be happy. This time I’ll listen to your views and act accordingly.” They never do. In the absence of a serious Labour Party to grapple with, and with Nigel Farage currently watching on a screen from the outdoor smoking area, the party’s main threat is itself and its peculiar interest in internecine warfare, which is only ever suppressed, never fully extinguished.
So, what exactly is the issue with the Conservative and Unionist Party? If one were to be pithy then it could be said that what little there is left to conserve they place no value on conserving. Similarly, they cringe over the Union despite it being overwhelmingly popular with English, Scottish – despite SNP claims contra – and naturally Northern Irish voters.
Johnson’s Tories in December of 2019 famously broke through the ‘Red Wall’ of constituencies which thirty years earlier would rather have sealed themselves in their coalmines than vote for a blue rosette. My own constituency, a decaying and sad place in the shadow of a gigantic car factory which shut in 2005 leaving a still-festering wound in the local economy, turned blue. There can be no misapprehension, no revisionism here. The 2019 majority was not due to the manifesto pledge of a green economy, the creation of forty-three hospitals or the revoking of the Fixed Term Parliament Act. It was due to Brexit. It was due to a Brexit that was voted for, then wailed over, denied, scuppered, ignored, bemoaned and abused. It was due to a Brexit that, before Farage resumed his role of Conservative Party Boogeyman in the May 2019 European Elections, seemed to be silently, tediously, slipping away. A Brexit being overruled by the hollow men of the Conservative centre. This is why the Brexit Party came from nowhere to turn the electoral map of the UK turquoise, and this is why working-class northern people held their noses and voted Tory for the first time in their life seven months later. The alternative was Corbynism, and an unpalatable alternative is no alternative at all. Johnson found himself with an 80-seat majority, the biggest since the Blair years, and a mandate to “get Brexit done” and shake things up for the first time in a generation.
It is now April 2022. House prices are so high that young people cannot hope to afford a deposit and as things stand they will never own a house. Their wages, already low compared to other anglosphere countries, are stagnant and their cost of living is spiralling. 53% of the money they pay for fuel goes to the taxman. If they have a job, their monthly National Insurance contribution has recently gone up to 13.25% of their paycheque, and the punishment for success is 40% tax rate on anything over £50,000. A surprising number of MPs have citizenship in other countries raising alarming questions about where their loyalties lie. The Communications Act Section 127 means that you can be arrested for upsetting someone on the internet. The Equalities Act 2010 makes affirmative action compulsory benefitting everyone except working-class white males, whose participation in society and health, wealth and educational outcomes are worse than any other ethnic group. The NHS, the sacred cow of British politics, is dying, screaming with BSE. The blockbuster 80 seat majority, a political battering ram capable of enacting almost any change imaginable, and solving every one of the issues identified above, has been used to enforce The Coronavirus Act and very little else. The blunt instrument of legislative overhaul is a TV prop, made of papier-mache. There is no vision for a Greater Britain. There is no plan for growth. The idea of Britain means nothing. Corbyn didn’t win in 2019, but it is hard to imagine things being much worse if he had.
The 2019 intake of MPs, far from being the grunting fascist enforcers of an authoritarian snapback, are among the most ineffectual and unremarkable voids to ever take their seats in the house. There’s Dehenna Davison MP, praised by The Times as the first “TikTok MP” – as if such a thing weren’t pejorative – who seems to think that serious constitutional change is less important than announcing her bisexuality, a statement which she claimed was “no big deal” and then gleefully did the media rounds rather undermining her point. Despite having no easily identifiable political viewpoint, she is lauded as a potential future leader. Her constituency of Bishop Auckland has 25% more benefits claimants than the national average, and the highest number of children receiving Free Schools Meals – a reliable indicator of child poverty – in County Durham. Hopefully her constituents’ hearts are warmed by their MP’s TikTok exploits, even if they can’t afford for their homes to be.
Making Davison look a serious Tory grandee in the mould of Disraeli is no mean feat, but it was achieved by another of the 2019 cohort, Jamie Wallis MP, who announced at 2 am on Twitter two weeks ago that he was now transgender; “or to be more accurate” he tweeted “I want to be”. These lofty aspirations were tied in with the fact that he had recently been raped by a man he met for casual sex on the internet and was suffering PTSD, which was the cause of his arrest in November 2021 by the police for fleeing the scene of an accident. The morning after this deluge of oversharing, he confirmed that he was still using he/him pronouns and wasn’t planning on transitioning any time soon. Luckily for Wallis, this all detracted from outrage over his involvement in a ‘Sugar Daddy’ website. Wallis’ constituency of Bridgend is wracked by poverty, being one of the ten most deprived areas in Wales. Another place suffering from unaddressed de-industrialisation and economic freefall. Bridgend made the news a decade ago with a series of youth suicides which underline the hopelessness endemic in so much of South Wales. The electorate of Bridgend, neither metropolitan nor trendy, may not be as forgiving of their representative’s transgressions as the broadcast media has been.
On Monday 11th April, yet another of the class of 2019, Imran Ahmad Khan, MP for Wakefield, was found guilty of sexually assaulting a boy of 15. The details are as lurid as one might expect, but the bigger shock came when well-established MP Crispin Blunt, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on LGBT+ Global Rights, chose to defend his staunch friend and decry “homophobic tropes” as the real villain. Unrepentant, the post stayed online overnight, until a meek apology and retraction was issued the following day. That yet another new Tory MP acted with impropriety no longer shocks. That an experienced MP like Blunt could write apologia for it and not expect to be challenged signals the swelling disconnect between the political class and those they rule.
It is not just the neophytes. The Conservative front benches also groan under the weight of narcissism and malignancy. Priti Patel is often acclaimed by left-wing commentators as the “most right-wing Home Secretary in living memory” as she postures about being tough on immigration — yet on her watch the English Channel is illegally breached daily. Legal immigration is also reaching terrifying proportions; 280,776 visas were granted for “family reasons” in 2021 which by the Home Office’s own admission is 105% more than 2020. Similarly, since 2019 there was an 111% increase in visas granted to dependents of people arriving in the UK on other types of visas. Whatever your views on the immigration debate, this cannot be considered “tough” by any objective measure. That the commentariat have created the image of her as Totalitarian Terminator, maniacally laughing whilst personally rubber-stamping the deportation order of disabled orphans, speaks more to their lack of proportion and the skewing of the British political Overton Window than anything else. On the 14th of April 2022 a plan was announced by Patel to offshore ‘some’ illegal channel migrants in Rwanda, sending the same commentators into apoplexy, but so far playing well with the base. A more cynical observer might suggest that this is a ploy which will be readily abandoned after the local elections in early May. Time will tell.
Conservative MPs are the dominant predators of their world, but no hierarchy can exist without the various creatures forming the food chain below. If British conservatism is an ecosystem, it is one that has had industrial poisons emptied in unrestrained for thirty years. Almost all the media outlets that are pro-Tory, or nominally conservative, have unquestioningly adapted the left-wing ways of thinking; unfettered acceptance of Trans identity and the accompanying pronoun game can be found in the Daily Mail and the Express. GB News, feted by the terrified left as “British Fox News” had turned out to be more of a weasel. Apart from Farage, and the wonderful Neil Oliver whose patriotic sermons to Britishness delivered in a gentle Scots burr soothe and salve, the rest of the line-up seems to take their cues from the prevailing media orthodoxy. Dehenna Davison has of course found herself a recurring slot. The network’s morning show is presented by Tom Harwood, a terrifying creature who appears to have been artificially created in a lab from a sample of Tony Blair’s DNA implanted into a biologically viable Ken doll. Presented as a “conservative” despite having no outwardly perceptible right-wing opinions, now that he can no longer cheerlead COVID restrictions Harwood’s main pre-occupation is trans rights. How this plays out on the doorsteps of the ‘Red Wall’ remains to be seen but when the cost of putting food on the table and petrol in the motor are causing nationwide anxiety, it may prove his instincts misplaced.
Something is rotten in the state of Britain. Without Scottish and Welsh votes, the Tory Party would win every election in England comfortably. The electorate generally supports lower immigration and tougher stances on crime. If there were a referendum on hanging, it would probably be reinstated. Yet the party that is supposed to represent this constituency is entirely antithetical. Research shows that Tory MPs are to the left of members and voters on social issues and to the right of them on financial issues. A socially conservative nation is abandoned to vote for a party that despises them, only because the alternative despises them more. There is plenty of taxation but scant representation. Where have we heard that before?
I resigned from my party membership in July 2020 when face masks became mandatory. The joke had got very old by then anyway. Johnson got Brexit done, as he promised, but two years later it does seem like the joke was on me.