South Wales. Labour heartland. A socialist haven. Before I moved to Swansea three years ago, I lived in a very different climate; think suburban Surrey Conservative blue instead of South Welsh red writes Benjamin Woods.
I should say that although I grew up in the safe Conservative seat of Reigate and Banstead, I did not grow up in a conservative household. My mum would hardly ever vote; growing up in another Labour stronghold in Merseyside before moving south in her teens so she’s always been far from right-wing. My dad was a local Liberal Democrat councillor in Sutton early in his career before setting up his own business and always voted that way pre-2016. Despite being a Lib Dem councillor my Dad voted Leave, and despite not regularly voting my Mum voted Remain. I point this out as it is the tendency to blindly follow the politics of our parents that is the greatest barrier to conservatism in Labour heartlands and a trend I wish to distance myself from.
With myself, I got interested in politics during the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum and became the only avid Brexiteer in my Sixth Form. At first, I was attracted to the Tories as the strongest pro-UK party. I grew more conservative, becoming a member for the many other values they also hold, campaigning for the Conservatives in Gower in the 2019 general election. It is these values of the centre-right which I believe the majority of Labour voters in South Wales also hold and therefore why I believe victory is achievable. I shall set out three such values and discuss them in turn.
The first value is the importance of the individual and the family being paramount over the arbitrary groups championed by the left. Conservatives believe you should be judged as an individual, rejecting the idea that ‘original sin’ and ‘victimhood’ can be applied to individuals due to their class, sexuality, religion, ethnicity or other arbitrary groupings. That does not mean we don’t recognise discrimination against individuals by those who view the world through the lens of identity politics, which we must fight at every turn, but it does mean that we won’t be drawn into their game of group divisions. We therefore believe that not only should the individual be granted their rights but also given responsibilities. That is why we champion both the rule of law and the rights of our citizens and the rights of others, recently seen with the proposal to grant a pathway for citizenship for BN(O) Hong Kong Passport holders. I also mentioned the importance of family. Championing family is one of the ultimate fundamental blocks of conservative society superseded only by the individual. The defence of the family is paramount, and one I feel is shared most keenly not by the super-wealthy and the well-connected but by the working-class man and woman.
I believe the championing of the family unit and the steadfast defence of individual freedoms, rights and responsibilities over group ideologies proposed by the left will appeal to the gut instincts of the majority of people in South Wales.
The second value set of conservatism that I believe is shared with the people of South Wales is financial responsibility. Many people dismiss those lower down the educational and wealth hierarchy as being unable to understand the complexes of governmental finances as they see it. I disagree. If I want advice on managing other people’s money responsibly, I do not turn to executives in crisp suits, working in shiny high-rise buildings, driving to work in gas-guzzling 4×4’s and living in multi-million-pound apartments. I turn to the single mother that makes £50 feed her children for a week. I turn to the man with grease on his overall, muck in his hair and dirt on his hands when I want to find someone who knows the true worth of money. They know that if you spend more than you earn the bailiffs will come knocking. They know that while they may like a new car or a new dress, there is no magic money tree unless that tree is called blood, toil, tears or sweat. While a pay-day loan may tide you over for a short time during periods of extreme economic instability the day to day running of the household, and indeed the state, must remain economically sustainable.
I believe the championing of financial responsibility both of the individual and the state over the wish list so often presented by the left will appeal to the heads of the majority of people in South Wales.
Finally, the third value held by conservatives I wish to discuss is the deep sense of patriotism. The left will tell you that patriotism is an ugly word which you should shy away from, but they don’t understand what it is. Patriotism does not pretend our country has done no wrong, nor is it a utopian view of the world with our country at its centre as those who criticise it suggest. Patriotism is the deep love of our country, both of Wales and the most successful union ever to exist, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Like those people we love, we recognise her flaws and work to fix them; patriotism does not mean ignoring these flaws. This dual patriotism is the reason why the full name of the most dominant conservative political party in the UK is the ‘Conservative and Unionist Party’. I could go on listing the UK’s achievements from the Magna Carter to the abolition of slavery, but that is not the point. Even if your country is relatively insignificant in a historical and global context, it is the shared history, language, beliefs, values, culture and heritage that binds us together with our fellow citizens which true patriotism celebrates.
I believe championing love of country over the wish to diminish our state, so often presented by the left, will appeal to the hearts of the majority of people in South Wales.
I have set out three core conservative values I believe the vast majority of people in South Wales hold, regardless of the group ideologies the left use to identify them. I have addressed the battles to win over the instincts, heads and hearts of those socialist voters whom I believe when questioned share the same centre-right principles that drive most conservatives. It is these shared values that I think is the solution to the curious cases of the right-wing socialists.
Benjamin Woods is a student at Swansea University