Can You Be Working Class and a Conservative? | Nathan Wilson
During the 2019 General Election the United Kingdom saw perhaps one of the most surprising and fascinating shifts in modern electoral history. The nature of this shift shocked many different parties within the United Kingdom to its core. Regarding ‘cores’ the nature of this shift was precisely about that within the Labour Party’s traditional voting base (that being working class communities most notably in ‘Northern England’) moving towards the Conservative Party.
For many the idea of being both working class and being Conservative would suggest being a contradiction and an oxymoron. This is especially relevant when we look at traditional Labour communities (In the political context the so-called ‘Red Wall’) of areas of the United Kingdom in which the for the last hundred years have voted solidly for the Labour party. An example of such a place would be the constituency of Blyth in the Northeast of England. This is a place which has voted for the Labour Party since its inception as a constituency in 1950 until 2019 when Ian Levy beat Susan Dungworth. What this resulted in was Levy becoming the first Conservative member of parliament for the constituency.
Many people have wondered and debated precisely why this has happened. Was it issues with Brexit and Euroscepticism? After all, it is a lot easier to get people to go from voting Labour to UKIP to Brexit Party to then voting Conservative than the initial jump from Labour to Conservative. Was a lack of Labour leadership? Corbyn was universally a nightmare on the door for many Labour Party Canvassers and it might have been the Labour Party’s approach to a wide range of issues (Refugees, Trans-Rights and Politically Correct culture), which has alienated its core voting bloc. Did this show that for some the majority of the Labour Party had been detached from the day to day experiences and lives of this traditional base of people.
For many the idea of being working class and being a conservative is no different to the American context of being an African American and being a Republican. A topic often championed by academics like Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams and Shelby Steele who also are the personification of that claim. The reason for such things, is maybe linked to several different societal ideas of what a set group of individuals ‘should’ be and to move away from such would be an act of betrayal of one’s own innate personal identity. From this, therefore being both working class and conservative can be seen for some to be a walking contradiction. This is because Conservatives have traditionally always been observed as a posh, middle class, pro-business side of the United Kingdom. A traditional founding in the South of England, rather than in Greater Manchester or South Yorkshire. In contrast, working class people have always been depicted to be on the other end of such individuals. With them being the victims of de-industrialisation, Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister and Neoliberalism often seen to a second-class nation within a nation.
However, if we examine what is means to be working class and conservative, we see a lot of similarities. Working class people in the United Kingdom tend to be very patriotic, proud and the personification of fidelity. They tend to be more socially conservative regarding certain issues (LGBT) and more ‘hardnosed’ regarding outlook onto the world. From this we may see culturally divergence amongst groups within the context of the United Kingdom. From this I may become increasingly evident that the Working Class are no different to other people, Conservatives are no different to any other people. They want similar things. Both the working class and the majority of the Conservative Party wanted Brexit, we see when we examine what parts of the UK voted are traditionally Labour, the so-called Red Wall and Conservative seats voting for similar things.
The Labour Party since Tony Blair’s landslide victory in 1997 has been on the gradual decline and its support from this traditional base has started to dwindle. We see this with voting turnout dropping in said areas and the rise mainstream Euroscepticism amongst said communities around the same time as such things. The question of why this has happened is any interesting one. This might be because the Labour party has been accused of abandoning its this working-class base and instead merely using said group as a tool to profit off. An argument that has become increasing transparent in the last decade when we look at certain members of parliament and how they view others.
Shelby Steele used to argue that there is an old formula for gaining and retaining power from others. This involved the flaming up and playing into certain group’s own insecurities around their lives. In addition to this Booker T Washington would talk and denounce what he believed to be a certain class of blacks within America (and by extension the West) whose sole function was to profit off keeping the problems being faced by individuals within the general public’s purview. This was an attempt to commercialise victimisation amongst groups, having learnt they could both profit and gain power from doing so. As a result, certain individuals have universally no reason to seek an end towards such perceived problems that said individuals claim to support. This is because they do not want to lose their chosen job. This would make as much sense as a drug dealer giving on selling Heroin to his most loyal of customers. Walter Williams used to amusingly call such people to be ‘poverty pimps’ or in the American context so called ‘race grifters’. It could be alleged that the Labour Party had fallen into this grouping as possibly being such a group that exists and who do not want to see the certain groups do well and as they do not want to lose their jobs or stop gaining sympathy for themselves. This has become increasing apparent amongst the increasingly middle-class membership of the party and there projecting of being ‘virtuous’ and ‘self-aware’.
From this the Labour Party have been accused of being one such group by the working class. This is through a perception of contempt towards the issues that certain communities hold as value. As a response to such things many working class people have moved away from their traditional party towards that of the Conservative party. From this we maybe seeing a new generation of young individuals from certain communities defined by their determination to improve themselves and their way of life.
In conclusion, regarding the question of can one be both working class and a conservative the answer is yes. This is because as more traditional social ideas of what it means to be as a working-class individual or what it means to be a Conservative are becoming more intertwined the idea will become less and less controversial amongst many. However, kick back round these things will become increasingly verbal and based in anger. This is because as explained earlier there have been vested interests into these groups by certain individuals. Such poverty pimps will not want to lose there chosen profession and because of this they will do almost anything to survive and maintain the power and influence they wish to continue to wield. As the United Kingdom continues into its uncertain future with Coronavirus and the ensuing economic downturn it will be interesting to see if the trend of working-class conservatism continues or not. Abraham Lincoln once stated that “dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present”. As the world moves further into its uncertain future, further ideas of what is means to be something will also change with it, Working Class people and Conservatives will not no different.