Leaving the Liberal Democrats and joining the Conservative Party was probably one of the hardest decisions that I have had to make in a long time. Doing so meant that I had to say goodbye to my friends and colleagues in the party and meant that I had pretty much turned my back on a variety of talented candidates who would, and hopefully one day will, make the country a better place. Whilst I know that it was the best decision for me as I disagree with some major party policies, that doesn’t mean that the process wasn’t traumatic. Without meaning to sound melodramatic, leaving the Liberal Democrats was like leaving a home.
Moving between parties, defecting from one party to another, is a bizarre experience. It’s really easy to just cut up your membership card and join another party, but for most people the mental process of doing so is the hardest bit. In conversations I still refer to the Liberal Democrats as ‘us’, much to the annoyance of my new colleagues. It’s easy to slip back into old habits and I have been guilty of this at times. I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m struggling to integrate, I’m also finding it particularly hard to do so whilst maintaining the values that I hold close. Over the last few days, I’ve concluded that they are simply incompatible with the party in its current form.
Whilst I have only been a member for a matter of weeks, the internal party culture that I’ve witnessed has alarmed me. This is apparent at both a national and local level, both online and offline. Whilst I love the individuals in my local association and the two neighbouring ones, one of the main issues that I have is the lack of explanation, the point-scoring and the lack of organisation. When asking why my MP voted in certain ways, the reasons given were mostly ‘I don’t know’ or ‘it doesn’t matter- she supports the party’s stances.’ This lack of accountability bothers me, especially when we’re currently in the midst of a general election. If I, as a party member, cannot get an explanation from those currently working to elect our MP- I don’t know how voters will.
Moreover, one thing that has become clear is the lack of responsibility for our own actions, instead it’s become awfully easy to just point a finger at the opposition. Decisions are made not because individuals in the party genuinely care, but rather because ‘Labour is doing this… how can we get these people to support us.’ The lack of organisation also concerns me, there is a genuine lack of engagement between the leadership of the association and the party membership. There has been a genuine lack of engagement with new members, and even a lack of canvassing/social sessions that are organised. I am told that everything is fairly last minute and hectic, but this worries me greatly. Being somebody who has worked within election teams before, I am aware of how they run, especially during a snap election. However, having minimal information available about ‘political action days’ is worrying, it means that members can’t interact with the campaign and are unable to arrange free-time to go out and take part. Short notice detrimentally impacts minority groups, accessibility needs to be taken into consideration. A winning campaign should be one in which everybody can play a part.
The national party isn’t much better, the party contains a culture where members think it’s okay to swear and use abusive terms to refer to people whom they disagree with, in particular female MPs. Moreover, I’ve witnessed individuals in closed group chats make anti-Semitic remarks and joke about rape. This isn’t acceptable in any case, but what upsets me the most is the sombre response that individual members gave when I raised concerns. Major issues like the ones above were labelled as ‘just ups and downs’ that come with the party, as a member you’re just expected to accept that these things happen and move on. The lack of hope is shocking, the only way to improve things is just to stick it out and hope that one day things will get better.
However, the event that pushed me out of the party was the way that the party responded to Ross England. Instead of suspending him immediately, they waited, with the Prime Minister (and leader of the party) misleading Parliament on this matter. He claimed that it was an ongoing investigation, when this was clearly not the case. The Welsh Conservatives suspended Ross, thus removing him as an assembly candidate, but other than that there has been radio silence on the matter with not even an apology issued. It’s clear that the decision to suspend was based on media pressure, not out of genuine thought for the victim. The handling of this case showed that the senior leadership of the party is not concerned about the integrity of the criminal justice system and the protection of victims of crime.
One of the first questions that I was asked when I joined the Conservative Party was whether you could be a Conservative and a feminist- to which I answered yes. I now regret that answer and would take it back in a heartbeat. The Conservative Party is intrinsically not progressive, you absolutely cannot be both a feminist and a member of a party that contains the issues that I’ve previously mentioned.
I joined the Conservative Party because I believe in the values of the party. I believe in free-markets, meritocracy and neo-liberalism. I believe in minimal state intervention, I believe in Brexit. However, I absolutely cannot remain in a party that has the countless issues that I’ve mentioned. It goes against all of the principles that I stand for, and against all of the work that I’ve done within my previous party.
On a personal level, I don’t regret joining. I have learnt a lot about myself and my support network through this journey. During the defection process I’ve lost a lot of baggage and have learnt a lot about myself. I am proud of the person that I am, the last few weeks have made me much stronger.
I just can’t stay in the party in its current state.
But before I go, I would also like to thank all of the people who have supported me. I’ve met so many fantastic people within the Conservative Party and I genuinely hope that you can make the party better. I hope that your blind faith works out in the end.
I know that I’ll be labelled as a careerist or an opportunist and I know that this won’t be taken seriously. But all I can do is write the truth, and act according to my own moral compass. The Conservative Party has let both me, and the rest of the public, down. They don’t represent me, somebody who should politically fall within their party.