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Tom Mludzinski: Why I became a Tory

Tom is a second year politics student at the University of Warwick

“You’ve done what?” That was my mother’s reaction when I told her that I’d become a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party. She was in shock; apparently when students go off to university they are supposed to ring home with the news that they are addicted to drugs or have got a girl pregnant. What I had done was, in my mother’s eyes even worse! She still hasn’t fully forgiven me and holds out hope that I may change my allegiances.

The thing is, I haven’t really come across this partisanship amongst my peers. I voted for Labour in 2005; the election was held two days after my 18th birthday. I supported some Labour policy, but most of all I was a great admirer of Prime Minister Blair. I’ve even had an internship working in the Westminster office of a Labour MP. And yet I ended up joining the Tory party.

My vote for Labour in 2005 was for Tony Blair rather than the Labour Party, and that was based not on domestic policy but on his position as an international statesman. There really was little else to vote for; I couldn’t imagine Michael Howard as Prime Minister whilst I did not see the Liberal Democrats as a credible challenge to the major parties. There was also a certain embarrassment about voting for the Tory Party. Having only got interested in politics in 1997, seeing Tony Blair sweep into Downing Street I feel I’ve only ever lived under a Labour government, I don’t remember any different.

However, more and more the Labour party has flattered to deceive, Blair summed it up best himself when he admitted that he wished he’d gone further on every reform he had introduced. He and his party entered government with a majority of 178 and yet have never delivered on many of his promises. His House of Lords Reform, like so much of New Labour policy was a headline grabbing idea but with no thought given to the consequences, we are left with a half-baked upper chamber.

The same can be said for the war in Iraq, a war which I fully supported but I had expected that there would be a plan for what would happen once Saddam had been toppled. However, once again the consequences were not taken into account and Iraq is a mess. Labour keeps telling us how much money they have thrown at the NHS, but it needs better management not just constantly giving the ailing health service more money. Reform of public services was the key to the radical New Labour manifesto on which they entered government in 1997.

We all remember “education, education, education” but even now, in his third term, Blair is struggling to enforce his ideas on education. Just recently he had to rely not on his own party but the Tory party to push through his latest education bill. Blair’s pledge for his party to be whiter than white and nothing like the ‘sleaze years’ of Tory governments seems to have backfired. The Home Office and its Secretary of State have often been hit by scandal and inadequacy. The Deputy Prime Minister is receiving cowboy suits and having an affair, while the cash for peerages row has seen one of Tony Blair’s closest allies arrested!

As for the chaos over the next Labour leader, the ugly infighting in the party is alienating the electorate. The public do not want the next Prime Minister to be decided by a secret deal, but worryingly for the Labour party, it seems as if they have not learnt any lessons from the demise of Mrs Thatcher. The infighting in the Conservative party saw Mrs Thatcher kicked out of Number 10. However, the consequences went much deeper, John Major scraped through the next election but following his defeat the party went through its leaders at a quick rate, divisions lay deep within the party and only now does there seem to be some unity behind the leader. If Labour is not careful they will suffer the same fate and not been seen as a credible candidate to form government.

So why did I join the Conservative Party, was it simply a process of elimination? The Liberal Democrats can’t really be taken seriously; Labour is falling apart… while the Tories are looking fresh and re-energised. To join a party there has to be more than that. The Tory party is the party that most closely reflects my principles of tradition, respect, family values, small government and national pride.

I joined the party after watching David Davis launch his leadership bid at Warwick University. Although he is rarely portrayed as an inspirational figure, if I hadn’t seen that speech I wonder whether I would have joined the party. He connected with his audience, spoke fluently but seemingly spontaneously, he answered all the questions thrown at him, even dealt very well with a Labour member attempting to show him up. He spoke of the importance of small government, the family, strengthening society. This struck a chord with me. Although his position was not drastically different from that of David Cameron, I really felt that Davis believed in what he was saying, it was his vision and not that of focus groups. He really meant what he said. I left the hall in which Mr. Davis gave his speech, went straight to my room and joined the party.

When studying politics at school out of 12 classmates, only one had joined a political party. These were all politically aware teenagers and they quite obviously had a keen interest in politics. This is a clear indication that the electorate, in particular the younger generations, do not see political parties as the best way to direct their political interest. A show of hands in my first politics lecture at university showed that a very low number of fellow politics students were members of a political party. However, when asked if they were members of pressure groups, far more hands went up.

It is clear then that we see pressure groups as a more effective way of venting our political frustrations rather than political parties. This is a fairly recent phenomenon. One explanation is that when class boundaries were very clear, it was almost natural for the working class to join the Labour party while the middle classes would be Tory members. However, with the blurring of the class lines and New Labour’s shift to attract ‘Worcester woman’ in the centre ground, it is difficult to know which party to join.

I simply could not understand the shock that my mother felt when I broke the news to her. I do not think many in my generation feel that way. I could not understand the hatred felt by parliamentary staff in the Labour Party towards Conservatives. Despite now being a Tory member, a true blue and ready to defend the party at any cost, I do not dismiss someone for simply being a member of another party. I feel no disgust towards Labour members, I feel for them as their party moves away from its traditional values and falls apart, but there should be no personal shame at being a Labour or for that member a Conservative party member.

Having said that up until very recently I was almost embarrassed on occasion to say that I was a Conservative. There is an unpleasant stigma about the Tory party, which David Cameron seems to be doing a good job in diminishing.

Whether you like him or not, David Cameron is clearly making the Conservative party more electable. The most recent polls show that the public would prefer Cameron to Gordon Brown as Prime Minister.

It may be a case of being in the right place at the right time for Cameron. He came in at a time when the electorate were looking to somebody, anybody but the current Labour regime. The ‘time for a change’ factor is certainly a huge one in the apparent swing back to the Tories but it will be a test of his leadership to see whether Cameron can hold onto the lead in the polls when it really matters.

I joined the Conservative party with the hope that we would regain power in the next election, perhaps the election of David Cameron was the right one, the party now looks more electable. He certainly has the right image and has been effective in attracting some of those who would previously not even consider voting Tory…he has yet to convert to my mother.


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