Daniel Downes is a secondary school teacher in Buckinghamshire.
“When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers”. This was the single thought, straight from the mouth of Oscar WIlde, that haunted me when Jeremy Corbyn was elected Leader of the Labour Party.
For most of my membership up to that point I had been lamenting the lack of true socialists left in the Party. How wrong I was.
There could be no greater conversion from socialism I believe than, to slightly bastardise Churchill, a five-minute conversation with the average lefty. As the Labour membership was subjected to an exponential rise of hard-left activists and others within the Party found a renewed confidence in their old ideals, the proverbial pennies began to fall thick and fast.
Rather than feeling delighted that I had found myself in possession of a golden ticket and that all I had ever hoped for had come true, I discovered I was sickened and lost.
All of the Marx and Gramsci I had quoted, all of the meetings that I had attended and rallies I had marched in, suddenly seemed cartoonish and bizarre. In the cold light of public scrutiny, my long-held ideological beliefs took a battering.
My conversion to socialism had been primarily about liberty and opportunity. On both counts I have discovered that it has been the Conservatives and the free market, not Labour and collectivist planning, that has actually delivered.
I need not, in present company, outline the relative merits of the free market in delivering opportunity and prosperity against the lethargic and misplaced idea that the state can directly deliver greater equality. The evidence is overwhelming that capitalism, so long for me a dirty word, is what provides the basis for alleviating poverty and creating opportunity, not just on a national but international level.
While socialism generally and the Labour Party in particular has failed to modernise the lens through which it sees the world, the Conservatives continue to adapt to globalisation and seek to ensure its benefits are felt by all.
Socialism must necessarily focus its attention on small elements within society and use the state as a mechanism with which to deprive the many in order to satisfy the needs of the few. This in itself may seem a laudable aim if directed towards the working classes as they claim, but in practice this is far from the reality.
Instead the state provides a basis for dependence, stifling the ability of people to meet their potential based on their efforts and merits. Welfare for welfare’s sake has not provided the basis for those born into poorer families to do better for themselves, as they are not given access to the skills that they need to find employment.
It is this failure that has hit Labour in its northern heartlands and given rise to political apathy and xenophobia. Believe me, it is contradictory to all that I have ever believed when I say that it is the Conservative Party and the free market that delivers for working people.
David Cameron’s second pillar of conservatism, after individual liberty, was to govern people as they are, rather than as we would wish them to be.
I wonder if there is any clearer window into human nature than the hypocrisy that continues to plague Labour’s socialists: those that argue against selection in state schools and the erosion of the private school system but take advantage of that system for their own children.
Then there’s the Shadow Cabinet members who condemn rampant greed in the rented housing sector whilst profiting greatly from it themselves. The day that Shami Chakrabarti entered the Lords is the day that I knew for sure that my career in the Labour Party was truly over.
This attitude has promulgated the notion that Brexit demonstrates a racist and ignorant electorate and fails to identify with the true nature of the isolation that voters feel from their elected representatives.
There is also within the Labour Party a long history of apologism for the means employed to achieve certain ends when it comes to terrorism. Those within Labour that still hold the actions of the IRA as heroic are the same that continue to claim that religious fundamentalism is the creation of the ‘Western Imperial powers’.
The hard-left analysis of terrorism, particularly in the 21st Century which is carried out in the name of a skewed form of Islam, is that military action in the region is exclusively to blame and that the actions of Hezbollah, Hamas or ISIS are understandable under given circumstances.
But it is our freedom, not just at the ballot box but at the supermarket, a freedom that is enhanced and protected by the Conservative Party, that most directly challenges the narrow ideology of these extremists. We should be proud, and not ashamed, of exercising these freedoms.
I have now, as many Momentum activists suggested to me, left the Labour Party and joined the Conservative Party. Through my anger at them for their narrow-minded self-righteousness and their supposed monopoly on morality, I failed to see that fundamentally they were right.
I believe that politics should be a forum for debate and for compromise. I think that people’s lives are better when they are provided with the tools to better themselves and a safety net for when things don’t go as planned. I recognise that part of the success of the global free market system is that people enjoy the goods and services that it brings to their lives and prefer it to the alternatives.
These foundations of conservative ideology and the dangers of socialism may well be long established for many Conservative Party enthusiasts, but the time to dust off our notebooks and take those arguments to back to the doorstep. I look forward to seeing you there.