Why vote for the Conservative Party? The Lost Generation

February 13, 2013 2:00 pm

conservative partyAneurin Bevan, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party between 1959-1960 once said ‘‘No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. ..So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.’’ Quite some statement to make, but I’m beginning to see where his hatred for the Conservative party is coming from.

Four years ago I was a member of the Conservative Party. At the time I saw an exhausted Labour government, led by an unelected, lackluster prime minister. A nation saddled in huge debt, continually participating in an unpopular war in the Middle East in addition to corpulent, gross over-spending and expenses scandals at home. To add insult to injury, by the end of 2008, the world had just experienced the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. For the first time in my life, Britain looked broken, or so that’s what we were told.

In opposition, David Cameron seemed to be formulating some divine plan to lift the country from its knees, constantly regurgitating political lyrics and phrases, converging his own linguistic mantra’s with words like ‘mend’, ‘fix’ and ‘rebuild’, reassuring us ‘‘we’re all in this together’’. Surely the ‘proof was in the pudding’ and the ingredient would be sensible spending, anti-bureaucracy and (the old Conservative party crowd pleaser) social responsibility. All of which seemed digestible. In the run up to the 2010 General Election, the Conservative party campaign seemed slightly fresher by high jacking the word ‘change’. Visually plastering it on conference walls and podiums, ‘Party for Change’, ‘Ready for Change’, ‘Vote for Change’. In the red corner, Gordon Brown’s campaign had been dubbed by its own ministers as the three ‘F’s’: ‘Futile, Finished and F****ed’. Stir that together with the infamous ‘Bigot’ gaffe of Rochdale and the shiny TV debate performances of Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg to cultivate voters on the left; it astounds me how Labour managed to deny the Tories their expected majority victory that May.conservative party tory

Here we stand in 2013 and another general election tumultuously edges closer. With our national prospects still looking bleak, I now admit, it is Labour I hope to see return. Of course, on the contrary, it would be naïve to ignore the mistakes of the previous government, yet from a personal perspective (and speaking as a student) it is the Labour Party that has provided me with greater opportunities. The ‘Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998’ which saw maintenance grants replaced with repayable student loans for all echoes this point prominently in the vicinity of further education of which I can only speak for. Without regard, I can say unequivocally that I feel no affiliation or affection for the Conservative Party at all. Maybe it’s a sign of the times and over time views change and so do people. Yes, I have fallen victim to such sharp transitions that, even since the party took its seat beside the Liberal Democrats on the green government benches, I am yet to agree with even a scarce amount of Tory proposal exhibited during this parliament. On many occasions you could say the party has planted the seeds of its own destruction. Whether it was David Cameron’s gay marriage proposals in which over one hundred Conservative Party MPs expressed ‘deep concern’ or Nick Clegg’s House of Lords Reform in which ninety Conservative party MPs broke the coalition agreement by defying the government in a vote. Both policies symbolised real progressive initiatives. All that remains for the party to feast and bicker over is Europe and the feeble legislature of redrawing parliamentary boundaries that does absolutely nothing in the way of helping people’s lives or improving our democratic system (but subsequently, only benefits the share of Tory votes in an election) What wondrous ideas will they chalk up next?

Maybe I should revaluate my priorities here. Do my prejudices only manifest in their weak response to policy or in the austere literature of our Chancellors budgets or statements? Plans that have advocated the vicious slashing of welfare for the vulnerable and disabled yet ensure tax breaks for corporations and those earning over £150,000. Are we not all in this together, Dave? Or are a few off the hook?

Istudent fee demot was understood that the deficit had to be dealt with, and a pragmatic approach was needed, but not to the degree of ruthlessness we have seen executed. And as for the calculating process of cutting public sector jobs as though they were faceless commodities on a screen, it seems to highlight what is wrong with the way society is managed today. As it happens, the heavy brunt of the Conservative party storm has raged over my own generation in the wake of its destruction. Nonetheless, I feel these effects will be as devastating for the perpetrator as they were for the victims. I will not delve into the stale rigmarole of university tuition fees, but I feel the targeting of students today could prove to be a shot a in the foot, resulting in long term infirmity tomorrow. Any consolations for us? We mustn’t forget, it was the Liberal Democrat compromise which enabled us to start paying back our loans as soon as we earn £21,000 instead of £15,000. How decent. Hopefully the Conservative party didn’t mind.

Now, you may question, ‘Why should the Conservative Party care?’ The answer lays barefaced: because they’ve just severed the young person’s vote for a generation, the students of today who will soon be the working men and women of tomorrow, won’t be careless in forgetting who loaded the baggage of debt weighted round our necks aged fifty.

And it’s not even current university students who will be extracting the torches and pitch forks come 2015 but their younger brothers and sisters in higher education will be accompanying them too. In the face of reforms to secondary education, it has been asserted by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, that pupils are not worked vigorously enough. Under an exceeding overhaul of the current system, which have been labelled a ‘throw back to the 1950s’ style examination, AS-levels will be separated from A-levels to become a separate qualification. This regressive intervention will mean teenagers taking A-levels will no longer sit exams after one year, and will instead be tested at the end of their two-year course in the likely shape of a lengthy three hour exam. All in all, it signifies that young people will be burdened further with heaps of pressure on one exam, likely causing increased levels of stress and worry. In addition, those who find satisfaction in the collection of marks and grades from coursework, providing much needed back-up in the event of failed exams, will be left feeling very bare. One bad day and it could potentially annihilate your chances for the future.

rich and poorThis seems very much like the formulating of a two tier system, one for the so called ‘achievers’ and another tier for the rest; unpityingly separating the wheat from the chaff. The Conservative party prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, warned us in the mid nineteenth century about a nation divided in two between the wealth of people consisting of the rich and poor and now that same party is to be the cause of new divide two and half centuries later, this time between the wealth of possibility.

If I could use a one word to epitomize the Conservative party’s return to government, it would be ‘cold’. Cold actions, cold thinking and cold priorities, the last time they won an election outright I hadn’t been born. Like it or not, we now live in times of incendiary danger and financial uncertainty. However I believe we’re more open to the creative energy of young men and women than any other time in history. Together, this new generation can begin to forge a new argument on the left and centre-left of British politics. An argument presented with fair, progressive thinking weaved consecutively by compassionate pragmatism. It has to serve the most vulnerable and reward the hard working but most importantly, provide everyone with the same opportunities in life, regardless of the categories we have been unethically summoned into. In moulding this idea, I predict the Conservative Party will be deprived of an elected majority for another twenty years. Let’s hope that is down to us.

  • Captain Slosh

    As a student, I couldn’t disagree with you more. It infuriates me that there are students out there who are so short-sighted in seeing that this education reform was necessary. Although having said that, the last student rally I saw organised at my university only managed to gather about 10 people, so maybe there is hope….

    What you don’t understand is this: Why should higher education be free? Who should pay the lecturers, for the library, the facilities etc.? God knows the government, i.e. the taxpayers, can’t afford to do that. So raising the fees to a still very fair level is definitely the thing needed.

    You may not know, but before this increase of fees were introduced, there was mass panic amongst universities because many of the departments were going to have to close down, some of them major ones such as classics at my university, because they just couldn’t afford to pay for the upkeep and the wages. But now they can remain open.

    Look at America – it undoubtedly has the best education system in the world and students are charged 5-10 times as much as our students will be charged now. People need to realise not everything in life can be free. You can’t live on the back of everyone else until you are 23! Get a part time job, I did it, it isn’t hard. Yeh it means you might have slightly less fun – but if you are serious about going to university then you should be serious enough to work for it. People these days just go to uni as they think its the thing to do, and it doesn’t benefit them at all – many of these people would be far better of starting low in a job at 18 and then rising through the ranks. By the time they are 23 they’d be paid better than most graduates in their first jobs.

    Why is it you think you that you deserve the taxpayers of Britain to pay for your university education? It intrigues me…

    Another thing that will happen, if you give this system a chance, is that for the deserving students, bursaries and scholarships will be set up – as they were in America – by companies who want to sponsor people through university. This will aid in weeding out those who don’t belong/aren’t interested/only going to drink themselves to oblivion from the system and make them contribute towards society by getting a job rather than leaching of it till they are 23.

    Bottom line is, we simply can’t afford to be paying next to nothing for something that is so expensive. And nor should we. I wish people today, and especially young people, would get it out their heads that Britain owes them this and that – it doesn’t – we owe Britain we do all need to club together – the rule in life is if you put in, then you’ll get something out.

    Oh and the debt until 50 is a bit over the top, sure if you remain on minimum wage until 50 (with a uni degree), then yeh, but otherwise you will be able to pay it off before then – and the reason it is like that is because it is designed to let you pay back a tiny bit each month in your wages so you hardly notice it. But as I said, if you don’t want the debt, then get a part time job.

    Over and out. (Well written article by the way, I’m not being nasty – I just hold a very different view!)

    • Higher education should be free and it should be paid for by the state, in the same way as other public services: health-care, libraries, police, fire-service are free. The government could afford to pay for it if it wished, but the ideology of the Conservative-led government is that it shouldn’t and that similarly other public services should not be provided for. The idea that the taxpayer can’t afford it is propaganda, nonsense, justification for a party in favour of privatisation- in fact I would go as far as to say that the Conservative-led government has used the recession and it’s austerity as an excuse, justification for it’s ideological belief in privatisation.

      Having universal, free higher education isn’t a matter of students having a sense of entitlement and thinking ‘the world owes them a living.’ Do you think students remain students perpetually? Scroungers and rogues, suckling on the milk of the state. Of course, they don’t they get jobs and begin paying taxes.

    • James Drew

      I respect your opinion and once would have completely agreed with you on this issue. However firstly, let me highlight that I didn’t advocate the idea of higher education to be free. I personally feel that would be absurd, grossly expensive for the taxpayer and not to mention the excessive management of thousands of students applying for their free lectures and seminars. The point I was making was the acute increase of fees and the manner in which it was executed without any warning or any prior knowledge. Now, I’m sure students would accept a steady escalation in fees between 15-30% (for example) but they were tripled. Such stark contrast now exude between myself and someone born a few months prior. The one paying £3225 approx a year and the other (myself included) £9000 average. Not even a £6000 cap? Surely this could have been performed with a little more thought? You may call this the harsh realities of life, which rightfully students should have a taste of in their preparations of the ‘real world’ however, these harsh realities were implemented by a party in government who didn’t even win majority. An institution which I feel should be trying to make peoples lives a little easier where and when it can be exercised. Even if that means leaving a system alone.

      I don’t think Britain owes me a living, nor should anyone else. I don’t think I’ve been an overbearing burden on the tax payer in my 19 years although I would like some sort of adequate education beyond where it is compulsory. I do not see it as a fair deal be almost diverted away from that financially (call it a right or call it a privileged). Some of the fortunate amongst us may very well be able to pay back their debt before they’re 50, but debt is debt regardless and nothing is a certainty. You assume that a degree is the key to open any door but these days it isn’t. We only have one opportunity to live this life and to excel and extend the boundaries of what we wish to do with it, so why should monetary stature dictate in every instance. Yet, I’m sure you’ll put that down to harsh realities of the world we now live in.

      You can word a question such as ”Why is it you think you that you deserve the taxpayers of Britain to pay for your university education?” And try to personalize it and attach it to every single working man and woman. Yet you’re altering the whole argument. I don’t feel like anyone should have to pay for my education, (but in British society that’s typically how things are funded, through the tax system), I just don’t see what warrants its increased value from one year to the next. I was always going to be in debt, but have been steeped in it further so unnecessarily. And that’s a whole generation’s fault? For a economic crisis that happened before some of us were participating in our year 9 SATS tests. I get it, scarfices are to be made but are we not paying enough for fuel, food or any basic essentials? Inflation is going up and wages are staying the same.

  • ChrisRobinson

    Good piece, James. It looks as f you might be a classic ‘floating voter’ – but, rest assured Labour won’t help us I’m afraid. They, the Tories, the LibDems (and now include UKIP) are four wings of the same capitalist party. None of them offer solutions, reflecting the rotten redundant economic system of capitalism they each represent.
    We need to be rid of it and fight for a new kind of equal society with a new party of genuine, democratic socialism.
    Elsewhere in the comments here somebody says ‘why should the taxpayer fund education. We are broke’? Or words to that effect. The truth is – we’re NOT broke. The money is THERE, it’s only concentrated in too few hands.

    • James Drew

      Couldn’t agree more Chris. I think a lot of people have been disenchanted with democratic socialism because of New Labour and the Third Way economics but I think it still has so much potential in the future. Just needs to be implemented correctly. Right now, Labour seem the only remaining choice if they provide an sound alternative. The establishment of a whole new party is what is really needed though. Unfortunately, that will never happen. And yes, of course the money is there. Everyone has been paying into it for all these years but your right in mentioning its poor distribution.

  • wakeuptheworld

    You faith in Labour is dangerous as they bear the greatest responsibility for our debt and bad economy, although I will admit that no party is worthy of my vote as they have all failed. Politics is now such a dirty word that I am not surprised the best brains go into making money in industry and banking. Some millionaires return to sit oon both parties frount benches, and they are the more dangerous as they have got the WEALTH NOW THEY WANT THE POWER.

    A total reform of our political system and way in which we are governed is required and a period of National government may teach politicians better habits and less spin and more forward planning. and above all better management of our economy, with no debt at all!!

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