I am a Conservative. More importantly, I am a Conservative living in London. With the London mayoralty, 21 out of 32 boroughs and 49 out of 73 parliamentary constituencies all in Labour hands, London’s Conservatives are almost by definition fish out of water. This raises two big questions. Why is London Left? How do we London Conservatives feel?
There is no definitive answer to the first question. In fact, one can spend a lifetime listing reasons why Tories are behind Labour in the capital. However, as an adult teenager who has lived in and grown up in London for ten years, I suspect the reason lies in the culture of London and, more importantly, in its people.
Despite being the capital of a predominantly Anglo-Saxon, Caucasian nation, London is not like that. Although 76.6 per cent of Londoners defined themselves as British in the 2011 census, that included 18.4 per cent who said they were Asian Britons and 13.3 per cent who identified as Black Britons. Non-white Londoners comprised 40 per cent of the city’s inhabitants and 37 per cent of Londoners were born outside the UK.
How does this help explain why most Londoners prefer Labour? It is partly because the Conservatives’ reputation as the “nasty party” – something Theresa May warned it about in 2002 – has stuck and is rather tangled up with also being seen as the “white party”. Any picture of the Conservatives’ 316 MPs is a sea of white faces with just a few ethnic minority ones dotted here and there. If you look at a picture of the current Conservative cabinet, even that small proportion of “coloured” faces decreases.
The truth is that electorates elect people who they feel represent them best: if a predominantly black constituency is given the choice of a rather plump black man or a rather plump, middle-aged, white male with, say, rather dishevelled blond hair, black constituents will always vote for the former.
So how does this leave we London Conservatives feeling? Ascertaining that would be an even longer and more arbitrary procedure than explaining why we are struggling in elections. So to avoid the legwork and human interaction that journalism so often demands, I will simply draw on my own experiences as a young Tory Londoner.
I am fortunate that the largely affluent constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green is the place I call home. Less fortunately, it has become a Labour stronghold. This has meant seeing dwellings worth £1 million and more festooned with “VOTE LABOUR” posters and banners during every election season, hearing the constant babble about how wicked this Conservative government supposedly is, and putting up with those old age Labour canvassers who always seem to have some local campaign for you to support. Living in London as a Conservative is incredibly draining, at times disheartening and also quite lonely.
I have political ambition and would very much like the chance to say: “Yes! I did that for my party.” But the miserable truth is that, come election season, when all my Labour friends are out campaigning, knocking on doors and waving their red banners, I am stuck at home grudgingly tweeting about how all my Labour friends are out campaigning, knocking on doors and waving their red banners.
This is not because I am lazy, or that I am not a proud and passionate supporter of the Conservative party. Rather, it is because I am a proud and sensible supporter of the Conservative party. If Conservatism is the politics of pragmatism, I can’t be accused of being a faux supporter of the party for not walking around the streets of London shouting “vote Tory!” when I am fully aware that defeat at the hands of the champagne socialists (at least in my constituency) is imminent.
Moreover, publicly declaring or campaign for the Conservatives in some place other than the privacy and safety of your own home leaves you open to insults and mind numbing discussions that often start with “You’re black and live in London, how can you support the Tories?” Been there, done that and I’d much rather not do it again.
Should London Conservatives have to sit and suffer in silence while their great city is painted red? No. But it seems, at least for now, that such is our reality. All I can do for now is hope and pray for a grand and majestic table turning some day.