If there was any doubt in the minds of most people that the left's great white hope, the 'progressive majority', is nothing more than a white elephant then look no further than the AV referendum results of May 2011. An irrelevant and badly organised attempt at voting reform that was ineptly supported by the dead-man-walking leaders of two of the major political parties ended in defeat on a scale virtually unimaginable in modern politics, with a mere handful of areas (including such worldly boroughs as Hampstead, Camden, Oxford and Cambridge) supporting it. If you wanted proof that the British public are fundamentally conservative - if not Conservative - then this, the first nationwide referendum since 1975, and only the second ever to take place, was it, showing utter disinterest at changing the status quo.
Yet set against this is a growing reaction from those who would call themselves 'liberal' but
cannot refrain from hissing and jeering whenever the idea of Conservatism is mentioned. I know
several people - sane, educated, intelligent men and women - who froth at the mouth when it is
announced that one of their compatriots votes Conservative, or has Conservative ideology. 'Tory boy' is used as a common insult, and it's considered something of a faux pas to announce in public that one supports anything that smacks of the right, as that is associated with intolerance, bigotry, racism and all the other squalid forms of low-level hatred that have been the apparent preserve of the Conservative party since at least the days of Thatcher. I've had at least one friend say in public that she'd disavow me if ever I came out as a Tory. Sorry, Sarah, but here we are.
I didn't grow up a dyed in the wool Conservative. At school, it was considered pretty much the de rigeur option, but nobody really thought too much about it. I suppose that I was moderately pleased to see the end of John Major's increasingly decrepit regime in 1997,and that I believed that the Blair years would see that 'things can only get better'. Clearly, I was wrong. I voted Lib Dem in 2001 and 2005, not because I was an especially big fan of the party but because the lustre had long since fallen off Labour, and because I couldn't vote for an organisation with John 'Right Hook' Prescott in a senior position. But then the Conservatives were equally useless, a bunch of balding men in cheap suits who spent their days obsessed with taking back spurious national powers from Europe, and no doubt moaning over whiskies in Pall Mall clubs that 'things aren't how they used to be'.
One doesn't want to become evangelical about a charismatic party leader, but it wasn't until the
unexpected success of David Cameron that I began to feel that, for the first time, there was a
figure whose values and beliefs I could empathise with at least some of the way. Was he perfect? Heavens no; from the off, he looked like a man more in thrall to style than substance, with too beady an eye focused on opinion polling and photograph opportunities and how things would play on the 6 o'clock news. But compared to his opponents and predecessors, he was a breath of fresh air, someone who was rational, sane and who, to borrow a sadly anachronistic description of Ed Miliband, 'spoke human'.
So I voted Conservative for the first time in 2010, and ended up with a Coalition. In many ways, I was delighted with this result, having always seen my political views somewhere between the Liberals and the Conservatives - Gladstonian Liberalism, perhaps. As I write, the media fan up dissent and loathing at all levels of the government, and there's probably something to it. But faced with the choice between someone who seems to have a handle on what they're doing, and an opportunistic yet incompetent opposition, that's my vote at their disposal in 2015. Unless, of course, they really screw up, in which case heaven help us all.
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