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Luke Bozier: Working class Tory? This is what it means.

Bozier lukeLuke Bozier is Co-founder of and consultant on entrepreneurship & digital communications.

A lot of people reckon the Tory party is a plaything for a particular slice of the British elite. A gilded group who were born to rule. At the moment, that perception isn't exactly unfair; David Cameron and George Osborne, for their strengths, both come from a background of privilege unrecognisable to most Brits, even relatively wealthy Brits.

That gilded image goes far beyond the two men at the heart of the Tory party; the perception runs deep that us Tories are about protecting privilege and helping our friends. It's a perception we don't have to accept. Actually it's a perception which keeps us from our full potential.

As an article in last week's Economist pointed out, it's been around fifty years since a Tory leader from a privileged background won an election. All of the Conservative prime ministers of the last 50 years have some sort of claim to a working class background. The people of Great Britain respond to the Conservative Party when it is a party that recognises and understands the aspirations of people who aren't from the upper echelons of society.

The problem is, the longer the idea that Conservatism is for the privileged is left to run, the harder it will be to convince the all-important working class and lower-middle class voters to vote blue in 2015 and 2020. We have to pick up the mantle of working class Toryism and place it at the centre of all we do as a party.

Many on the left think it anathema that somebody who self-identifies as 'working class' could identify with Conservative values. They're so wrong, and it shows how poorly the left understands the aspirations of the people they claim to represent.

Working class, and lower-middle class people and families do identify with Conservative values. The values of hard work, responsibility for one's family and self, care for one's neighbours and community, are what it means to be a Conservative. It does not mean public schools, country houses and trust funds. My father ran a bakery, my mother, who was a single mother, works as a secretary. I spent most of my childhood in council housing.

And yet I am a Conservative. Because I believe that aspiration and hard work are the route out of poverty, not a life on benefits. Most working class people feel the same.

Working class Conservatism wins elections and changes lives. We forget that at our peril. A new approach is required on three fronts: candidate selection, policy development and political communication, to re-position Cameron's Tories as the Tory party which understands, defends and promotes the aspirations of the working class.

That's the only possible route to a Conservative government in 2015.


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