New Internationalist

How can anyone working class vote Tory?


Photo by thegreatgonzo under a CC Licence.

In 1979, at the time of the general election, I was a sheet metal worker in a factory in the Black Country. I voted Labour, as I always had done. All to no avail. Margaret Thatcher romped to victory.

It was to be the first of three consecutive election triumphs for Thatcher and the Tories and they immediately set about unleashing unfettered, laissez-faire capitalism on the British public, its disastrous consequences still being felt today. And a crucial element in these Tory victories was the working class vote.

Working class Tories. What a contradiction in terms. But it is nothing new. Ever since working class people won the vote a large number of workers have voted for the Conservatives.

And the question is, simply, why? Why do they vote for a party that so clearly and consistently attacks their interests? What does someone eking out a living on the minimum wage or collecting benefits have in common with an over-privileged, multi-millionaire Tory politician? Absolutely nothing as far as I can see. But, somehow, the Tories manage to persuade gullible sections of the working class to help put them – and keep them – in power.

And they are still at it. Cameron, Osbourne, Lansley et al. Mostly Old Etonians, Oxbridge, filthy rich. That’s about as elite as it gets. Yet, again, working class people, tugging at their collective forelocks, voted for these toffs. Turkeys voting for Christmas. And the tragic (and this really is a tragedy) irony is that the present government is presiding over the dismantling of the welfare state whose whole premise was to provide a decent life for working class people.

It all seems ominously, and depressingly, reminiscent of some of the characters in Robert Tressell’s classic book: The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. Completed in 1910, it was a detailed and scathing analysis of the relationship between working class people and their ‘betters’. The ‘philanthropists’ of the title are the workers who, in Tressell’s view, acquiesce in their own exploitation in the interests of their bosses. Some things, it seems, never change.

For any working class person to vote Tory is nothing short of a betrayal. A betrayal of the workers who fought and died to create a better world for their class. And a betrayal of future generations of workers who will have to start all over again.

They have much to answer for.

Below photo by I See Modern Britain under a CC Licence.

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