Matthew Cashmore is a blogger at thelondonbiker.com who has worked all
over the world in research and development, and has travelled the
world on his motorbike. He'll be campaigning in the marginal seat of
Oxford West and Abingdon for Nicola Blackwood.
I used to think your politics was something you inherited, like ginger hair or knobbly knees or a love of Marmite. Growing up I thought your political persuasion was a bit like a religious belief, that you could slice someone open and see the word Labour or Conservative or Liberal written on their inside.
I grew up in the Welsh mining valleys where it's taken for granted that you'll love rugby, go to chapel religiously (if you'll forgive the pun) and of course, without a hint of hesitation, vote Labour. My grandfather was Labour, my father still is Labour and I was Labour. The whole community was intrinsically wrapped up in the party – the social scene was down the Labour club and the best cinema around was the Miners' Welfare.
As a child of the 1980s in south Wales I remember the wide-scale unemployment, the EU food rations and sharing text books at school. It's these memories that saw me cheering as Tony Blair swept into Downing Street. The campaign tune was Things Can Only Get Better and I truly believed they could.
How can someone who has such hostile memories of the last Conservative government now declare they can’t wait until they take power again? Simple, the Labour Party has lost it. The Labour Party in Blaenau Gwent – my home constituency – ignored the local voters and imposed an all-female selection list. The voters elected their existing Assembly Member to Westminster as an independent and Labour hasn’t held the seat since.
Why should you care about all this? Since those heady days of 1997 we’ve seen promise after promise from the Labour Party, and time and time again they’ve failed to deliver, they’ve failed to recognise the mood of the nation and they’ve failed to truly connect with a modern Britain. They’ve failed me – I’ve succeeded in life despite them rather than because of them, but more importantly, they’ve failed Britain.
One of the reasons I loved the Fire up the Quattro poster is that I remember in the late 1980s and early 1990s I felt like I could achieve anything. I came from a working class family, but there was a Conservative government telling me that if I worked hard I could do just about anything. It rewarded entrepreneurship, helped people to help themselves and it worked. It worked because the education I received in the 1980s and 1990s from a Conservative government taught me to have ambition, drive and a determination to succeed. It set me up to achieve more than just heading to the job centre. It taught me that I shouldn't expect hand-outs and leg-ups from the state – this was my life to lead. I had to make my own destiny.
Over the last term of the Labour government I’ve become convinced that they don’t have a clue. I’m convinced that they’ve lost all understanding of what life is like in Britain today. And I’m convinced that they’ve not got the foggiest idea about how to start to move us forward, to once again capture the imagination of the whole country, and get us to the point where we can build a Britain based on a modern idea of what we are capable of on the world stage, rather than out-dated ideas of what we might have been as an ex-empire.
I do think I know who can help us achieve that goal, or at the very least start moving us in the right direction – and as odd as this sounds from a Valleys boy, that party is the Conservative Party.
The Conservatives are the only people who have a vision that includes everybody, a plan that encompasses the whole country, and a passion for a modern society that we all want to see.
It’s time to leave behind the ideals I believed the Labour Party to encompass, and face up to the fact that they haven’t stood for any of those things for a very long time. It’s time for me to think the unthinkable as a Welshman – it’s time to vote Conservative!