I’ve come to the conclusion that I was just born that way: you see, for as long as I can remember, I’ve felt – no, not ‘trapped in the wrong body’, or ‘abducted by aliens’ – nothing as mundane as that. I’ve just always been ‘Right Wing’ – but you have to remember that being that way is my ‘normal’. I was three when peace broke out, so that grim, prim, era of Crippsian austerity and high-mindedness surrounded my childhood; Ration Books, Identity Cards, hand-me-down drab clothes, and power-cuts – even Static water-tanks and bombed buildings made up the foreground of my landscape.
So when the Conservatives won the 1951 election we seemed to be moving from monochrome to colour. Evacuees (and Static water-tanks) had gone; ‘bomb-buildings’ were now building sites, not playgrounds.
I passed ‘the Scholarship’ as the 11+ was still called, and went to the Grammar School in 1953. In the Third Form, Suez erupted and, to a man (if we could be called such) we were all stunned that, having begun the business, we unaccountably had to pull out. We were too young to fight, but fight we would have, and more powerful still was this feeling when a couple of years later, men not much older than we, were being shot in the back in Cyprus. My elder brother went off for National Service and I, like most of my school friends, looked forward to doing my stint – only to be cheated, when they stopped it in 1960.
I’ve often heard it said that ‘Any man who is not a socialist at age 20 has no heart. Any man who is still a socialist at age 40 has no head.’: I never was a socialist, yet believed I possessed both heart and brain. Indeed it was the heart that made my young self a conservative, seeing the grim squalor Socialism had wrought counterpointing the genial, ancient liberty that came with conservatism. Besides, my head would have been telling me I’d have been a rotten soldier, whether in Cyprus or National Service, yet my heart was telling me it would have been worthwhile – even, perhaps, glorious.
Mr. Macmillan’s ‘wind of change’ speech marked the beginning of my growing disillusion with the ‘Conservatives’: what was conservative about giving away the British Empire, and why was a ‘Conservative’ celebrating change? And why did ‘Independence’ seem always to entail virtual or actual dictatorships, and why were the new governments always Socialist? And why was this Prime Minister so keen on the European Coal & Steel Federation, the Monnet Plan, and the Benelux countries? Was Britain now no longer able to stand on its own feet, or just resignedly feeling that the game was not worth the candle? Those Third Formers who were so incensed by the craven backing down at Suez, so dismayed by the ‘no heroics’ barely-holding-the-line approach in Cyprus, would have leapt at the chance of proving him wrong.
Of course, little was expected of the obviously duplicitous and faintly sleazy Wilson, but hopes revived for Heath – at first! But then his monomaniacal pursuit of membership of the ‘Common Market’ extended to a willingness to give away anything in return for this fool’s gold: our territorial waters? Let them have them! Imperial weights and measures? Why not! Pounds, shillings and pence? We can discard this venerable, familiar, and supremely practical system, if that’s required. If De Gaulle had said we needed to give up the English Language, it seemed Heath would not have thought that a pre-emptive cringe too far!
One historian cited in wikipedia, questions whether Macmillan really was a ‘mainstream Conservative’ and not just a skilful purveyor of the post-war consensus (‘Butskellism’?). Of Mr. Cameron it was plain as a pikestaff to me, that here was yet another Whig – as unprincipled as Melbourne and as cynical as Walpole. Like Macmillan, he was from a business background and had ‘married into the aristocracy’; unlike Macmillan, who earned a First in ‘Mods’, which might very well have been followed by a First in ‘Greats’ but for the Great War, Cameron’s First was in the misleadingly nicknamed ‘Modern Greats’ (‘PPE’ is a mere 3-year course, whereas ‘Lit. Hum.’ takes 4). Apparently, his ambition to be Prime Minister was merely because he ‘thought he’d be good at it’, rather than from a clear vision of what the Country needed, hence, probably, the vacuous purposelessness of his time in office, lurching from stunt to stunt, unwilling, or constitutionally unable, to see anything through, or to measure the effects of any measure.
So, never having been a socialist, and never having been an actual member of ‘The Conservative Party’, I became a member of UKIP, and have gladly and willingly supported it as far as I am able for a few years now. I got really excited with the ‘Leave’ campaign – it was like being a Third Former again! And Ihope to be able to continue when we finally emigrate, leaving England, for our native Cornwall.