On the day of the 2010 General Election I was in America with my husband and had prioritised sunning myself and buying clothes over watching a minute by minute breakdown of the results. I was (superficially) interested in who won, but not enough to pull myself away from the 33 degree heat. I was 20 and eligible to vote for the first time, but I had not cast a postal vote and so realised whatever the outcome I would be unable to complain anyway. Luckily for me being basically born and bred in Windsor, and therefore genetically disposed to support the Tories, David Cameron got in and so I felt ok about my lack of participation.
This time, on the way other hand, I was very interested in the election and decided that we as a family would frequent the Datchet W.I. so that I could, for the first time, exercise my democratic right to vote. However, I didn’t want to walk into the polling station and tick a box just because I liked the sound of it and so in the days preceding the election I read up on the policies of the main parties in order to make an informed decision.
The Green Party manifesto seemed to me to be estimations of figures and promises that could never be kept if they were to somehow ever come to power. Like the guy who tells you they will ring you the next day, the Green Party manifesto pledged to renationalise the railways, abolish university fees and bedroom tax, and spend £85 billion on home insulation, renewable energy and flood defences. Public spending would increase taxes by £6600 per person, or £198 billion in total by 2020, all whilst cutting the maximum weekly working hours to 35. And as a small business owner I also didn’t like the idea of them raising corporation tax to 30%! None of their policies felt realistic or made me feel that my vote should be used on them so I moved on to Labour.
Now like a lot of people, when I think of the Labour Party I think of the recession; I am not simple enough to to blame it squarely on them, but nor am I naïve enough to believe that the Government of the time should not have foreseen the problems and dealt with them better. I also, again like many others, feared a Labour and SNP coalition and so this made me wary of voting Labour. But, and this is admittedly where my grown up outlook went out the window, most of all I felt it difficult to trust a man who bares so much resemblance to him with the fate of the country.
Luckily for me I was not among the students who were first charged £9000 a year for attending university; however, I had absolutely no faith in the Liberals due to this move during the coalition, and so I moved on again, this time to the Conservative manifesto.
Cameron and his cronies offered a middleman offering of £8 billion extra funding for the NHS, no rise on VAT or NI contributions, a raise on personal allowance, along with extending the Right to Buy scheme and increasing free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds by 15 extra hours. As a business owner, new mother and possibly one day home owner, these policies appealed to me a lot. I also felt that the last government had done well over the past five years by halving the deficit, creating 2.2 million extra jobs, quartering the crime levels and managing to help the economy grow faster than many other countries.
So when the 7th of May rolled around, we three (the husband, bubba and myself) went to vote, and I confidently put a big HB cross in the box for my Conservative MP. I felt so grown up, and like I may possibly have made a difference in the lives of me and my nearest and dearest. And I stayed up as long as I could to find out the results, and tuned in the next day when I had prised myself from my bed to do the same thing. And happy times, it was an unexpected Conservative majority! I could go about my day as normal, but happy that the party I had wanted to win had. But then I checked Facebook, and all hell had broken loose!
Apparently I was a “fucking idiot”, an “elitist”, a “traitor to my country”, “scum”! I hated the poor, the disabled, and those on benefits and wanted to take their money to line my pockets. God! I sounded awful! I felt like a teenager caught masterbating, or worse, listening to Justin Bieber! Not normally one to comment about my political view in public, I felt even more hesitant to defend my personal choice, or to offer the reasons behind it, in fear of being further mocked by those whose opinion happened to differ to mine.
The Left-wing backlash to the Tory majority has been extremely ugly and bitter, and sadly has also been very personally directed towards those who voted Conservative. Scathing comments, bullying campaigns and pictures lambasting and ridiculing Tory voters covered all forms of social media and made it so obvious why the polls had been so widely inaccurate; people were “shy Tories” because they were afraid of repercussions such as this! I, and my fellow 11.3 million Conservative voters, were made to feel like we had done something shameful and disgusting and in turn were comparable to social and political lepers. Disregarding the fact that even with proportional representation the Conservatives still would have had a majority with the largest number of votes, and seats, whatever votes they received were legitimate and were cast by people, who like me, believed that they would be the best party to run the country for the next five years.
I lived in a council house for many years; my mum worked three or four jobs at a time to support my brother and I; I went to a state school and qualified for free school meals. I only became a business owner when I married a man who had worked his arse off his entire life in order to buy a café, which although successful and popular, only makes enough profit for us to pay the mortgage and live a comfortable, but not extravagant lifestyle. I am not a millionaire! I am not an elitist! I do not go to sleep at night smiling like a Cheshire cat at the prospect of benefit cuts, and tax increases for anyone. But nor do I believe that because I am not classified as working class, and do not make minimum wage, that my opinion and vote are any less valid than anyone else’s. I am free to vote as I please and the self righteousness and smugly sanctimonious discourse regarding my choices are greatly offensive. I can’t say that if the tables were turned I would ever see myself acting in such an abhorrent and antisocial way. How extremely undemocratic to publicly call out and humiliate someone for voting for a party that you didn’t like!
Each person has a different issue. Employers are bound to vote for a party that pledge to keep corporation tax down whilst employees are more likely to vote for one that raises the minimum wages and looks to protect pensions and workers’ rights. But that’s the thing, I voted Tory because more of their manifesto suited me than the others. It was in the best interest of me and my family! Presumably this is the same logic as those who voted for Labour, UKIP, liberal and SNP. Yes of course I did take into account the wider impact of the parties on the economy, but at the end of the day I voted for what suited me. I can happily and truthfully admit to that, but I couldn’t say that for many of the Left-wing voters online who seem to believe that it is only those on a higher tax band who do so. I suspect that many people I know, and many of those bandying insults around, may have had some personal reasons for voting the way they did, reasons that did not include me and my corporation tax or extra childcare!
Incidently I must point out that I am not writing this post to cause offence or to criticise anyone’s vote. I am merely trying to explain, not justify, my reasons for voting the way I did, and why the backlash I and others have received as a consequence is unacceptable!