Embracing the Ex Tory Voter

Going to secondary school in leafy affluent High Barnet, meant making friends from a different social strata to the one I’d been born into. My dad worked as a meter reader and my mum a cleaner, and I lived in a two bedroomed council house. My friends parents worked as estate agents, solicitors, GPs, and bankers. Some of their hallways were as big as my lounge. Did I feel embarrassed by my humble origins? On the contrary – my Labour supporting republican mum had instilled in me a sense of pride in my working class heritage.

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My mum turned to Labour after reading The Ragged trousered Philanthropist as a teenager. My dad, an Irish immigrant who’d left Limerick aged 8, didn’t share my mum’s politics. He was a liberal and a staunch royalist. This difference of opinion often led to heated rows, particular when elections came round; rows that most of our neighbours probably guessed at whenever a Labour poster would appear in our lounge window, and a Liberal one in my parents bedroom. To make my early political education even more confusing, and interesting, my mum’s mum, who I adored, was a Sun reading Tory. We had some corking rows during the miners strike. And then there were my wonderful school friends. Whilst most of them didn’t share my interest in politics, those who did mostly claimed to support the Tories, like their parents.

Out of this mishmash of influences, I drew a valuable life lesson. You cannot identify someone as a good or bad person by their politics. My Tory nan was a loving decent person, as were my Tory friends. My liberal dad was just as loving and caring a parent as my socialist mum. It also taught me a persons politics can change. Whilst I felt a natural affinity with my mums politics, I wasn’t as staunch a republican as her. Maybe I felt bad for rejecting my dads politics completely and decided to identify with at least one aspect of his beliefs. Shortly after my dads premature death at the age of 59, I embraced republicanism wholeheartedly, something that probably wasn’t a coincidence.

My mums road to Damascus moment, triggered by one particularly profound and beautiful book, compounded this lesson. Was my mum a bad person the day before she read The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist and a good one after? Of course not. She was the same person, just a more aware one. So where are you going with all this? I hear you ask. The answer to that question has a name, and that name is Michelle Dorrell, the single mum so badly betrayed by a Tory party she had only recently voted for.

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Michelle’s out pouring of raw anger on BBC Question Time, has been met with mixed reactions on the left. On the positive end of the scale, Michelle has been recognised as someone who deserves our sympathy, regardless of who she voted for. On the negative end, Michelle has been told she deserves everything she gets because she had voted for the very same government now doing herself and her family harm. Whilst I’m not judging anyone for their responses, I am hoping this blog post gives those who have responded with disdain for Michelle pause for thought.

No matter the trigger that opens someone’s eyes to the callousness of the Tory government, and no matter how late in life it comes, can we not celebrate that awakening rather than chastise them for not being born with that innate knowledge? Can we not appreciate that everyone has grown up with different political influences, and been exposed to a media that is heavily biased toward the Tories, limiting most people’s opportunities to see politics in a balanced way? Can we not welcome them into the labour family with warmth and good grace, reassuring them that they are now one of us, whatever their past allegiances? The Tories certainly don’t turn their face against new voters, whoever they once voted for. Welcome home they say. Can we on the left be just as welcoming?

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I certainly hope so.

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23 comments

  1. Paul fear · October 17, 2015

    You write very well. Enjoyed the article.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nick Nakorn · October 17, 2015

    Another very well made point 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Chris · October 17, 2015

    Thoughtful and excellent post!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Mark Catlin · October 18, 2015

    Reblogged this on markcatlin3695's Blog and commented:
    I agree, I have to admit to having thought “I wonder how much thought she gave to those already suffering from Tory policy before she voted?” But in saying that my natural instinct is to feel empathy/compassion for her plight.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Terence PEARSON · October 18, 2015

    Lovely and loving article. May I make one point. Having been a flip flop voter in the past myself I am able to recognise one. This lady is intelligent and has recognised the Conservative party for what they are. She has been shafted by them, perhaps she would like to know how. My ureka moment was reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist I commend it to her and wish her luck.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. paul4cowick · October 18, 2015

    The problem isn’t Michelle’s – it’s ours on the left. For whatever reason, Michelle thought that the Tory offer was better than Labour’s.

    Perhaps that’s because we didn’t challenge Tories hard enough about what those £12bn welfare cuts would mean for people like Michelle?

    Or perhaps that was because Michelle didn’t think Labour would or could help people like her?

    Too many have chosen to attack Michelle – but ignore the fact most people don’t vote on principles and ideals. Instead they vote on self-interest

    Liked by 3 people

    • ginadeen · October 18, 2015

      Excellent point Paul4cowick. I hadn’t thought of that. The Labour party clearly didn’t reach out to a lot of people for many reasons. We have to work on that one before the next GE and make sure we keep people like ‘Michelle’ with us – and many others who are now regretting that they believed the Tory lies.

      Like

    • Nick Nakorn · October 19, 2015

      I think a lot of Tory voters are convinced by the narrative the Tories (and the right-wing of Labour and the Lib-dems) have been selling for decades; that the economy is like a household budget. If what is claimed for Capitalism was true – trickle-down, real money, wealth for all via enterprise and the profit motive – I’d vote for it. But clearly it’s a sham. I think many voters see the political parties as different versions of the Tory narrative so from that perspective voting Tory is not only logical but ethical. The left now needs to bang on and on and on about how Capitalism actually works, how money is actually created and how resources are actually distributed. Yet even many of Corbyn’s followers dare not challenge Tory ‘economics’ for fear of frightening voters. I think voters need to hear an entirely different narrative that places ideas like People’s QE in a context of real resource reallocation. Unless there’s a coherent message, it will still make perfect sense to vote Tory to support the so-called reality of the bogus Tory world view.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Claire Peach · October 18, 2015

    The poor woman on QT upset about TC hadn’t a clue- her S E income of £150 a week means that once UC for families goes live, she will either have just that to live on or have to do workfare. A complete mess but people will only care when they realise it means THEM and not just the fictional, demon other. Unless you are very rich, it won’t be if it hurts you, but when. I hope people will understand that’s human nature and welcome any new recruits to our cause; if they can’t, I hope they’ll find a pragmatic road and welcome their votes.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Pingback: Embracing the Ex Tory Voter | digital_deviance3
  9. fusr2 · October 18, 2015

    Reblogged this on digital_deviance3.

    Like

  10. Andrew Faul · October 18, 2015

    I generally agree with what most people have put, mainly inclusive of yourself and Paul.

    You can’t judge a person on who they voted for; people will and should always vote on personal situations – that’s part of the overall positive of democracy, to have a say in your situation.

    Unfortunately all of those millions of voices do end up getting swept away in the sea and general autonomy of a party in power, almost as if they forget why people voted for them in the first place.

    However, it’s not just the disillusioned that we as a party need to target, it’s to try and showcase a calm within the storm. Even dare I say it; responsibility.

    No one party can ever be a panacea to every man, but given the correct form of debate, listening and cohesion between politicians, parties and voters, the man on the street may for once think that this new way of thinking could well be better than the brutish barbarianism often seen in the Commons and finally think “this lot seem reasonable, let’s try it”.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. wasterspace · October 18, 2015

    My initial reaction was ‘OK, welcome to the Labour party!’
    Like you, I have grown up with good labour values. Yet, I also believe that politics can make or break a personal relationship. Finding our way in life is about learning by experience and sometimes this can be painful. This poor woman’s painful experience has been magnified a million times as she bravely shared her distress on national TV. The outcome proves to be even more upsetting as she faces a mixture of both public derision and sympathy.
    She has suffered enough already. Let the heckling stop and give her a break. She deserves it.
    My best friend helped vote in Maggie Thatcher. It didn’t take long for her to see the mistake she had made, but I merely laughed and said, ‘I told you so!’ Having her on the same side was good for our friendship. I never considered that many more people were feeling like she did – coming home to Labour. I’m older and wiser now and I can see the bigger picture. Welcome home, Michelle. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Pingback: Embracing the Ex Tory Voter | Read Noir
  13. ginadeen · October 18, 2015

    Gosh, how heartening to read this post. I have been trying to say the same thing to all those labour friends who are condemning her. Like they are totally right and she is totally wrong. Get over youselves. Are people not allowed to make the wrong choices sometimes or change their minds? It would be a very poor society indeed if that were always the case. Well written and well done you.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Pingback: Embracing the Ex Tory Voter | disabledsingleparent
  15. Wildcat (@M0djadji) · October 18, 2015

    Some fair points raised…but I can’t help being angered by the fact that this person was happy / couldn’t care less about the hideous Tory policies (especially the bedroom tax, which has destroyed many lives of the poor, sick, and especially the disabled) right up to the point that they affected her, whereupon she started complaining.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Roger Barton · October 18, 2015

    Excellent article and attitudes and I hope they become the more generalised response to people who voted UKIP or Tory and now realise it was not the best choice to make. Lets start from where people are rather than at the level we want them to be, and just a little bit of humility that maybe New Labour and Ed Miliband’s dire campaign are themselves part of the reason people did not see labour as a choice to make.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Xavier Breath · October 18, 2015

    This is all a bit previous to be honest. She may, or may not, choose to vote Labour , so it might be wiser to wait for the moment she can convert. There’s some degree of hubris here too, given that there is still significant dissent within the Labour party as to its direction on everything from fiscal policy to nuclear weapons. One thing we can say about Michelle Dorrell is that she has convenient principals. I’d wait to see if the Tories reverse their policies before the next election and if her teflon principles have a further epiphany of self-interest.

    Like

  18. mic · October 19, 2015

    I’ve never voted Tory but I did vote UKIP twice. I did so because I never did and never will associate Blair/New Labour with the national socialism ( lol….I can see the nazi allegations coming) that I believe in. My attraction to UKIP was not based on a fear of immigrants but a fear of increase in unaccountable “government” removing us further and further from real accountability and I still maintain that the EU is a disaster.Hence the “national” in the socialism. But having hung out with JC’s brother in the 80’s it’s great to see Labour back with a leader that stands for it’s heart and soul. Farage is a city boy and I really DON’T want to vote for any brand of Tory but I’d still have him over Blair ..who by the way should stand trial for war crimes, hopefully in Nuremberg.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. joe · October 19, 2015

    It’s true what you say but the only problem I have is that the people who didn’t vote for or want the Tories in power now have to suffer the same unfairness as the people who did

    Like

  20. Biter · October 20, 2015

    It’s a reasonable piece but you’re still falling into the usual trap of patronising people who may have a different opinion to you politically. You suggest that people who don’t vote in a way in which you would like them to are simply not ‘aware’ enough. Maybe they are plenty aware and their view no less valid.

    Like

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