19th February 2016
What I like about the Tories
Our local Labour party ran a campaign session last summer, and most of us out that day were Liz Kendall supporters. We noted the absence of our Corbyn supporting friends. The Corbyn movement had already been telling us all about the swathes of non-voters who were about to start voting for us, once their man had won the leadership contest. I knocked on one door, and found a non-voter. She said she liked elements of different parties, and would vote for a party that brought together all the best points of Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats. So, not longing for some left-wing alternative then! But her words were enough to get me thinking the other day, just what do I like about the Tories (and other parties)?
For a start, I will talk about my recent experience of the Liberal Democrats. I had always been dismayed with the party’s position on the Iraq war, although Nick Clegg impressed me on 26 September 2014 when our MPs discussed action in Iraq against ISIL. We all knew about the mounting atrocities, but Caroline Lucas insisted on pursuing a diplomatic solution, as if there was anything that we could put on the table!
In response, Clegg said this: “Whilst I regret this, and everybody on both sides of the House may regret it, there are times when it is simply impossible to reason with your foe. There is no diplomatic initiative that would be recognised by ISIL. It is a barbaric, murderous outfit, which by its actions and its pronouncements has shown that it cannot be reasoned with.”
I liked the fact that the leader of the Lib Dems totally understood what was at stake here, and the party has continued to defy my previous expectations. Some media sources I read predicted that the Liberal Democrats would vote against the air strikes in Syria against ISIL. However, Tim Farron’s Lib Dems were voting in favour, along with many Labour MPs. Are the Liberal Democrats changing? Will they continue to see more sense than the Labour leadership? They certainly earned my respect on this one.
Now I will look at the Tories. Animal welfare does not make it to the top of every politician’s agenda, nevertheless Conservative Mark Pritchard has led an admirable campaign for a ban on wild circus animals.
Mark Pritchard has been brave enough to set an agenda within his own party, and there are increasing numbers of Conservative MPs demonstrating progressive attitudes towards animal welfare. A London Labour MP told me last week that one of the most recurring topics to appear in his mailbag at the moment is that of wild circus animals, so the subject is clearly a concern for constituents. We must also give credit to the previous work of Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick, when he talked about such a ban when Labour were still in a position to do something about it.
The Labour Animal Welfare Society has argued that many voters do consider animal welfare issues when deciding who to vote for.
It is interesting that Ed Miliband boasted of writing Labour’s 2010 manifesto, as he often failed to understand what really mattered. Did that manifesto sufficiently pick up on voter concerns and address animal welfare issues? I find that few animal lovers appear to agree that it did, and Labour should have followed through on Jim Fitzpatrick’s wishes much earlier on.
David Cameron recently drew criticism over plans to help Muslim women improve their fluency in English. Such a plan can in the first instance, sound shocking and offensive. But I thought it commendable, and I was pleased to hear about the £20 million fund. I will explain why.
I visited a community project in the East End of London as part of a university course, and Muslim Bangladeshi women were there with their young children. I was thrilled to find books there that I remembered from my childhood and that they were still being used to teach these children how to read.
Then the project was fully explained to me. The children were learning to read, however, the mothers were not allowed to improve their English and standards of literacy as their husbands did not want them to enjoy a full life outside of the family home. The objective was actually to ensure that the mothers could read.
What an excellent idea! How else will these mothers properly access healthcare or meaningful employment or legal advice or benefits, should circumstances require it?
We should welcome the help for other Muslim women.
After all, I grew up always believing I could be whatever I wanted to be, and being a girl or a woman should not be an impediment. I once happened to sit in a train opposite a female Tory MP who had served in government. We got talking after a cute child started speaking to us. I told her about my work with the Labour party, and she was most encouraging and thought I should pursue whatever ambitions I might have in politics.
What I find in the Labour Party is that I am told that I might not be able to fulfil my ambitions without the help of an all-women shortlist, or some other discriminatory policy. We may not have 50 per cent representation at all levels, but I would argue that only a third or so of members are women in the first place. I wish we were more like the Tories, where they select and elect women because they recognise their talent. The Conservatives want people who are the best for the job and who will win elections, and that should be a lesson for Labour – after Labour patronised women for years with our policies, the Tories look more likely than Labour to have a female leader in the next few years anyway!
I believe that Labour would be led by a particular woman right now if winning elections was our priority.
I can only hope that there are Tory voters out there who can identify what either inspired them once or inspires them now about the Labour party, and that they will want to vote for us.
So much makes me proud. The determination to go ahead with the NHS despite the opposition of medics at the time. The late, great Barbara Castle who helped to save lives by introducing the breathalyser, the permanent 70mph speed limit and seat belts for all new cars, and who also put through the Equal Pay Act 1970. The moral purpose of introducing a minimum wage when the Tories were so adamant that it would cost the country jobs.
The Conservative Party learned from Tony Blair and got itself back into government. Perhaps my non-voter is onto something, and it is time for Labour to learn from the achievements of other parties and get back into Number 10.
By Paddington Baby