First published on the Huffington Post
It would be fair to say that I am not a regular attendee at Party conferences. Last year I went to my very first one, as a lost and confused candidate in an ‘unwinnable seat’ that no-one had heard of in the South West. Attending everything in sight, and naively accepting every lobbying meeting going, led to a fairly miserable three days, compounded by some very young, very posh, very friendly types desperate to talk about the theory of economics and Team 2015. Horrendous.
This year I was asked to present the first day on stage, the Britain in the World day, which was an entirely unexpected honour. I felt uncomfortable, as I have come to accept, milling around the conference hall where almost everyone was guaranteed to have at least twice the intellect and twice the qualifications that I had. However backstage was a very different experience as I chatted to the Foreign Secretary, Defence Secretary, International Development Secretary and some legendary stalwarts of the Conservative Party such as Steve Bell, the Conservative Party Conference Chairman. I was made to feel completely at ease – the SPADS circled their charges with nervous whispers, but with Fallon, Greening, Hammond et al, we almost had some fun chatting about recess and conferences past.
I had to leave shortly afterwards for another commitment and headed for the car. There was a noisy and irritating protest going on. I asked a Police officer about the best way to go, and if it was safe to move freely among the crowd. Nothing to give you confidence in control of the situation like a policeman’s shrug “you can chance it if you like mate.”
I moved past the crowd to where a group of masked activists were who unfortunately lay between me and my car. They were penned in by some Police, and not enough Police dogs for my liking. I went to push through the cordon when an individual recognised me from the stage (no idea how).
“Are you a f***ing Tory?”
I was getting a little annoyed. “Yes I am a f***ing Tory mate, is that ok with you?”
He started pointing me out to his mates, who all looked like they had spent a considerable period away from any sort of washing facilities. In fact, some of my lads looked better in Afghanistan after an 18 day patrol. And smelled nicer.
I started receiving an unwelcome sermon on how I had, almost singlehandedly, ruined the Country. I asked a nearby Policeman if I could push through to my car, and he said I couldn’t. I asked if he was prepared to escort me to the other side of the protest, to which I didn’t get the answer I was looking for.
I thought about ditching the tie and wading my way through. I have literally just bought my suit though, and I know the wife would be unimpressed. I was advised to hide, like the naughty Tory I was, give it five minutes and then go to my car.
After five minutes I made my way to the car.
I came from an entirely non-political background. I frequently assess a policy for myself, and it’s relativity to Plymouth before supporting it, or writing a note to the Minister saying I have concerns. I listen to everyone – particularly those who didn’t vote for me, for it is my role to represent everyone, especially those who didn’t vote for me.
But I would never listen to this crowd. They are not protesting politics, and they are not standing up for the most vulnerable. They are simply on a mission of troublemaking, of vengeful envious messaging, symptomatic of a generation that had something for nothing for so long. Now it is being re-ordered, now a Government has the courage to take on a completely unsustainable economy and welfare state, they react in this manner because their politics simply do not stack up any more.
The Hammonds, Fallons and Greenings of this world are not the ‘Tory scum’ these protestors have in their minds; on the contrary their bravery in standing up for what they believe in and having a career in politics, in the face of this intimidation, some for decades before me, is to be genuinely admired.
In my short but sceptical career in Westminster thus far, I have never met an MP who does not pride themselves on their constituency work and responsiveness to their constituents, and who did not come into Politics to make the world a better place for our most vulnerable and down-trodden.
There are serious questions to be made by the left to challenge the Government of the day in insuring that this recovery is for all, that all feel they are represented in the House of Commons, and we progress as a forward thinking, resilient and stable nation in a deeply unstable world.
Yet they do very little to separate themselves from this protest. They peddle informed lies about the NHS, about the economy and about ‘tax cuts for millionaires’ that have actually seen the revenue to the Treasury increase since this Government came into power. They do themselves an enormous disservice.
So ignore the haters – I know it can be tough when the crowd is baying as you make your way to conference today. But know this: the vast majority in this country think like I do. We are not huge political animals, and neither are we intellectual greats. We do however respect those who put themselves in office for a cause; we believe in a healthy economy to look after our most vulnerable and we believe that for too long, an entire generation had a better time living off the dole than those of us who bothered to get a job to feed our young families.
It’s been an inspiring conference. And I look forward to coming back for many years to come.