On of the frustrations of being a conservative is that as soon as you tell anyone that you are a conservative they immediately make all sorts of assumptions about you - and they are usually wrong.
Among the most frustrating of those are that you -
- don't believe in workers rights or improving their working conditions
- think that every service or business should be privately owned/run
- have a slavish devotion to the free market/free trade
- disagree with state intervention
- always vote Tory
Absolutely none of these are true in my case and I suspect it is the same for millions of conservatives up and down the country.
For starters, conservatives can be left and right of the political spectrum - I know that my political opinions cross the divide in many areas, but just because I think that, for instance, some services and businesses are best owned and run by the state doesn't make me any less a conservative and certainly doesn't make me a rabid Trotskyite. Be honest, does anyone think, for example, that our armed forces would be better owned and run as a private enterprise?
Sure, I'm certain there a good number of wannabe despots and revolutionaries who think that having their own private army would be a good thing, but the majority of us accept that when it comes to the defence of our nation then perhaps it's right to leave that to the government.
The truth is that most of us are conservatives - in some way or another. Very few of us apply the idea of radicalism to our own lives. We buy conservative cars in conservative colours, wear conservative clothes and are conservative in our taste.
So why then do we suddenly think that radicalism is a good thing with politics when it is something that we shun from our lives in virtually every other respect? Where does this obsession with "change" come from when so few of us want to apply change to our everyday lives?
If radicalism and change is such a good thing - why are so many people content to stay in the same job for years and, if they do change jobs, stay in the same industry doing basically the same thing? Why aren't people who advocate radical change prepared to quit their jobs - whatever it is - and start doing something entirely different?
The answer is obvious - they are conservative. They prefer to stick with what they know because what they know works and pays. Yes, sometimes taking a massive risk, chucking in your job and starting something completely new and different pays off - but most of the time it doesn't.
You know that if you find a particular career path that sticking to it will bring gradual improvements to your life. Sometimes you will make a modest change by trying a different employer, but it will still be basically the same thing and it is a change you can make without too much risk to the progress of your career. The same principle applies to national and political progress.
This is why I am a conservative and why I am proud to say I am a conservative - because I know that it works. Being a conservative means understanding the simple point that real progress is made by small, modest, incremental changes to tried and trusted methods rather than radical changes and leaps into the unknown.
I know that - and I suspect that 90% of people who claim they are "progressives" know that too.
And yet they think that somehow it is different when it comes to politics.