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Saturday, 13 April 2013

Thatcher's grandchildren

There's this stereotype of Tories. They're all a bit posh. From the south of England. They have rich, or at least middle class, mummies and daddies. They like shooting things (animals). And destroying the lives of things (people: mostly poor and disabled, but anyone vulnerable). They are Privileged.

I'd like to say I'm the exception. The minority within the Tory party that is Normal. But I'm not.

I mean, I am Normal, but I'm not a minority. It is very noticeable within Conservative Future that though there are some posh boys and girls, there are also an awful lot of regular people. People who aren't born to it, but nevertheless are very much persuaded by Conservative ideology.

I'm from the north of England. An ex-mining town actually. The kind of place where Thatcher is a synonym for 'everything that is, and ever will be, wrong with the world'. I'm not rich. I'm from a single parent family, and while my mum does well now, there was very little money I was young. I definitely don't like shooting things. Tory confession: I'm a vegetarian. Please don't out me when I next attend a Countryside Alliance event. Even more shocking, I have my own disability (Crohn's disease).

I won't claim to be a 'Working Class Tory'. I'm one of those not really working class (education excludes me), but not quite middle class (no money) people (the BBC reckons I'm an 'emergent service worker'). But I do belong to a generation of young Conservatives who are, in a sense, Thatcher's grandchildren.

Thatcher's grandchildren love the free market. We simply adore the concept of a small state. Cut spending, cut taxes: Osborne should stick to Plan A. If he'd done Plan A properly we'd be doing much better. In the things we do think the state should provide (healthcare, education), we favour bringing in the market and the power of competition. Michael Gove; my hero.

Deeply skeptical about unions (they represent a niche interest, not the public good), many of us think Boris has the right idea. Actually, Thatcher's grandchildren love pretty much everything Boris says/does.

Like most Tories, we tend not to like Europe either (except for holidays and Camembert). The EU represents another layer of government, and Thatchers grandchildren share her horror of THAT.

However, Thatcher's grandchildren do part company from the great Lady somewhat. Perhaps it was inherent to her, or perhaps it was just the time she was in. But social conservatism? No. This next generation of Conservatives don't go in for that. We are liberal conservatives. All those things that get the oldies into a bit of a tizz (equal marriage?) are perfectly acceptable to us. Non-issues. 'Why-didn't-we-do-it-years-ago' issues. I believe in a small state, and that includes the state keeping out of people's private lives.

We are strong patriots and supporters of the armed forces, but since we missed the Cold War ordeal, we're a bit more relaxed about all of that.

I was born in 1989. I cannot claim to remember a female Prime Minister. So for us, for me, what is Thatcher's legacy?

In real terms: privatised industry, The City, weakened unions. Britain on the world stage, not a broken post-colonial failure. I'm sure you've read lots of these articles on economy, international relations, etc etc in this last week. These are important, of course they are. But let's be honest: it is all I've ever known. For me, that stuff is all really cool, but it didn't bring me in to politics.

The ideas are so much more powerful. The ideas are inspiring.

The idea that you can work hard and get on. That if you are determined, you can overcome. That you are responsible for your destiny. 

Of course, anyone can say those things set on their own. But Mrs Thatcher brought them down to earth. She demonstrated what determination can achieve in her own battles. She set aspiration in the context of limited state, lower taxes and an (unfinished) attempt to break dependency culture.

On Wednesday I will be going to pay my respects to Mrs Thatcher, but let it be known: her legacy lives not just in that lot in government now, but in the next generation of Conservatives too.

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