Shy Tories and the Need for Noise

Recently, in a typically pithy piece for The Spectator, Harry Cole suggested that the era of the Shy Tory is coming to an end, with Conservative supporters now proud to stand up and be counted amongst the blue masses. I only wish I could be as upbeat as Mr Cole. Whilst he speaks a lot of sense, the anecdotal evidence - drawing a link between guests at a recent wedding and a groundswell in open Tory support - doesn’t really spell out the whole picture. You see, it’s one thing to stand up at boozy, presumably middle (at a minimum) class nuptials and pronounce an affinity for Dave, George, and the gang; it’s quite another kettle of fish to do so at a working men’s club in Barnsley, a squalid council estate pub in Manchester, or a trendy vegan pantry in Hoxton.

The white, middle-to-upper class Tories are not the ones that need to proclaim their proclivity for Conservatism: everyone knows they’re there. What the party must realise, and quickly, is that the share of the national electorate that supporter base represents is slowly diminishing, be it through immigration, or the tendency for those voters on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder to have, on average, larger broods. The demographics of the vote are changing in Britain, and by 2025 - and possibly even 2020 - whoever is running as the Tory candidate won’t be able to be bailed out by the last minute swing of two or three percent from the stealth Shy Tory vote - it just won't be enough.

One only has to look at London to see the writing on the demographic wall. 37% of the Capital are foreign born, and there is nothing to suggest that their allegiances will take the violent swing to the right that the Tories will need - you only need look at the swathes of red covering London on the election night results map to confirm that. With net long-term migration (immigration less emigration) climbing from 209,000 in 2013 to 318,000 in 2014, a whole new generation of foreign born voters are arriving on our shores. The two largest communities of migrant voters, Indians and Pakistanis, contain a paltry amount of Conservative voters at 24% and 13% respectively: unacceptable numbers, yet numbers that unfortunately reflect the majority of migrant communities. This is why characters such as Sajid Javid are so important. Asides from his considerable prowess as an MP, Javid’s ‘story’ - that awful X-Factorisation of politics - is more aspirational than anyone in the Labour camp’s. Yet we, as Tories, still allow them to bang out the fallacy of being the party of aspiration. All the Sajid Javids of Britain - first or second generation Britons who have worked hard and made a success of themselves - need to stand up and shout from the rooftops that it is the Conservatives, not Labour, who are the party that promotes social and fiscal improvement for anyone willing to work at it. Labour, in some sort of delusional Robin Hood fantasy, want to take from the rich and give to the poor; the Tories just want to help the poor become rich.

The same problem resides in the working class vote. Traditionally Labour, and too ingrained in their voting habits to really listen to anything the Conservatives have to say, their party allegiance passes from one generation to the next with little argument - any inclination to vote blue will be swiftly drummed out of the offending offspring. It is time for the Tories to make serious inroads in Labour’s vicelike grip on the lower classes. Yes, the economy is bouncing back; yes, there are more jobs; and yes, Cameron is going to increase the personal tax allowance; but none of these factors will matter one iota until it comes not from the mouth of an Old Etonian, but from someone that these voters can relate to. This is why the Working Class Tories movement prior to May’s election should give heart to those of us who fret over how to get through to non-traditional blue voters: here we had working class Tory voters unafraid to get on their feet and tell people like them how great the Conservatives are - exactly what the party needs. They now need to see real support from the Tory hierarchy - give them a seat at the table, let them grow their numbers, and encourage them to crank up the volume of their message.

Finally, we need to make gains in the 18-34 age range of voters. For too long has it been a bastion of Labour self-satisfaction, led by the smug trumpeting of the likes of Owen Jones and his pseudo-intellectual devotees spouting baseless Labour platitudes and congratulating each other on being such wonderful people. They dominate social media - the medium of choice for news and opinions for a large portion of 18-34 year olds - flogging their left wing snake oil and threatening to digitally disembowel anyone with the nerve to even hint that they are mistaken. The Tories need a stronger presence digitally, with more Young Conservatives - especially those from backgrounds other than the traditional white middle and upper classes - prepared to write, blog, create podcasts and generally match the frenzied activity of their Labour counterparts. 

Listen, we got lucky in 2015: Labour chose the wrong leader; the wrong policies; and shot themselves in both feet with a farcically hubristic campaign. They won’t be so naive in 2020, and we had damn sure better be ready for that. In the meantime we have to grow the party base with serious self-promotion at the grass roots level: we don’t just need Shy Tories to make themselves known; we need them to stand up and make some noise.