To the Bashful Conservative
By Gillian Cummings
A note to the bashful conservative, don’t worry no one knows your name…
Well, well, well, what a difference 3 weeks and a majority win can make in the world of politics and the length of David Cameron’s sleeves. Gone is the rolled up, pumped up look of pre-election fervour. Now both he and his wardrobe are back to the traditional conservative style of stay-pressed perfection, and his politics have followed suit. For the unexpected majority win on May 7th has undoubtedly allowed Cameron, and the conservative party to slip into something far more comfortable regarding their current policy choices. Fox hunting, withdrawal from the European convention on the Human Rights Bill, an apparent drive to keep England’s green and pleasant land appearing, at least on the surface of things, green and pleasant? As they endeavour to abolish Wind Farm Subsidies, while paradoxically backing the high-speed London to Midlands Rail Bill, and apparently, the shale industry’s ambition to frack most of the North Midlands (1). But what’s a few inconsistencies between a party and it’s silent majority.
Yes, this is for you, the ‘shy tory’ that unleashed this careering conservatism on your fellow country folk and threw the polls into such disarray. Theories were plentiful in the space left by your silence. The most convincing one being that you were simply embarrassed. Which as the ICM suggests (2), might explain the correlation between unexplained Tory votes and those of you who ‘just didn’t know’ when asked for your voting preference publicly. It’s a neat trick this subterfuge, and probably explains why the rest of England, some 61%, have been left visibly reeling as the reality of another 5 years of conservative rule takes root.
But just between you and me. Who are you really? What’s your motivation? Maybe no one will ever know, including you perhaps…and why should we care anyway. Like most people, I knew who I wanted to vote for, in my case the SNP. But had I lived down south it could’ve just as easily been the Greens, or Labour. And like the majority I knew why I wanted to vote the way I did. And was happy to discuss mine and other’s choices openly. So I’m feeling pretty pleased about the result. Only I can’t stop worrying about our neighbours down south and wondering about you, the silent Tories. And because I can’t stop wondering. I thought I’d ask you myself…was it something to do with us?
Did you believe David Cameron when he and the Conservatives concocted a scare story that painted a picture of the SNP as a mere symptom of a strident form of resentful Scottish Nationalism, with Alex Salmond as the entry point (3). Are you going to carry on believing this I wonder? When the SNP questions austerity plans for Scotland and the UK as a whole, not because Mel Gibson once painted his face blue, but rather because these cuts are inflicting suffering on working people throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Working people including your neighbours, people who live on your street, in your town. Will you put these questions down to being anti-English too?
If the SNP call for higher taxation and a fairer distribution of resources including housing. Will you accept David Cameron’s or any other Conservative Mp’s accusation, that such calls are tainted by the unpatriotic, separatist character of the speaker in opposition. Because believe me they will make this accusation in a thousand different ways, and more.
And I have to be honest I am afraid. Afraid that if this is your reasoning, as the conservatives predicted it would be, you’re going to keep on listening to them. You’re going to keep on believing them, keep on being angry and resentful towards us. The peculiar ‘Scot’s’ as Douglas Hurd, on the morning after the election, called everyone who happens to live on this side of the border. Including my English, Spanish, German, Irish, Polish and American friends, my English partner and my children.
Do you think that I feel the same way about you? Do you think that I believe in my innate Scottishness and your innate Englishness? In my rightness and your wrongness. Is this the nationalism that you believe in? The kind of nationalism where the past defines the relationships of the present. Where history is revered but seldom understood. Where past hurts and challenges are stolen from the people they belonged to. To be melded together instead by policy makers, in order to create a statue of a national identity that we are told…defines us all. But what happens when you allow these definitions to really become who you are. When ‘I’m English’, I’m a Unionist’, ‘I’m British’ replaces or ranks higher than ‘I’m a father’, ‘I’m a mother’, ‘I’m your friend’, ‘I’m your neighbour’. Or perhaps like your voting preference…you prefer to keep that to yourself as well.
Am I being unfair? It’s possible…I don’t know you after all. I don’t even know if you think of yourself as English. And, if so, what being English means to you. So for me to portray you, your thoughts and your motivation on so little information is unfair. But then so is ignoring your own conscience. Ignoring whatever doubts kept you from speaking up and out with regards to the political choices you made on May 7th and continue to make now. Choices that may well be based on someone else’s arcane and facile definitions of who you are, definitions which keep you from genuinely considering the relevance of these choices to your life, and the lives of those around you. Do you think I’m being unfair? Too personal perhaps…Well don’t worry, I’ll be the last person to address you as ‘you’ for a while. To the government, the pundits and most importantly everyone else you’ll simply be known as the shy dependable tory. Until you learn to speak…and more importantly think for yourself.
1: 2015, Conservative Party Manifesto. Available from: https://www.conservatives.com/Manifesto, [26 May, 2015]
2: Dealing with Don’t Knows, 2015. Available from: http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/faq-dont-knows, [24 May, 2015]
3: Tories are the party of the working people, 2015. Available from: http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/570532/David-Cameron-warns-horror-Labour-SNP-alliance-pledges-Tory-party-working-people, [25 May, 2015]
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