Why and how I moved from left to right
Going from being a vocal socialist and Scottish nationalist to being a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party sounds paradoxical, but the jump from left to right is not as difficult as one would think.
To give some context to my prior leftism, I come from a very working-class background with my parents raised on council estates in Edinburgh and Caernarfon. While my parents always kept me informed of current affairs from a young age, they did not force any political ideals onto me in general, my leftism really was a product of my upbringing as a working-class Scot/Cymro. I was however instilled with the understanding that I was Scottish and Welsh — not British. Now, this was not out of any Anglophobia or political desires at that time, identifying as solely Scottish is the norm in Scotland. Nevertheless, that combined with my instinctive leftism made me an impassioned Scottish nationalist by the time of the 2014 independence referendum.
The rejection of independence did not dampen my enthusiasm for the concept but as the Brexit debate emerged afterwards, my Euroscepticism which was also an important part of my belief in Scottish sovereignty was put into an awkward position vis-à-vis the increasing Europhilia of Scottish nationalism. I had to choose between my disdain for London or my apathy towards Brussels and I chose the former, encouraging people to vote Remain but not campaigning for it — I was a fairly apathetic Remainer. But the 24th of June 2016 is where my divergence began. I accepted the result.
A year later, I moved to England for university where I was exposed to more people on the right and more people who supported Brexit. At the same time, I became a Christian which made me re-examine some of my more liberal political stances, but nevertheless, I remained a socialist and I joined the Labour Party. My understanding was that we could create a better, socialist country outwith the EU and at the time, Labour *appeared* committed to respecting the result of the vote. As time passed, as Brexiteers became more embittered, and as Remainers became emboldened by a Parliament that knew which side it was on, I became much more convinced of my Euroscepticism — in contrary to the direction of my then-party, and very much in contrary to the direction of my home country which I love so dearly, Scotland. Altogether, this made me feel very detached from the socialism which played such a big part in informing my understanding of the world.
Another factor which played a role in the development of my small-c conservatism was my Christian faith. As my faith grew and as my understanding of the Catholic Church and Christian teaching evolved, my opinions changed. I became pro-life, I became jaded with identity politics, and my overall understanding of the world, how I wanted it to be, and how I wanted my own life to be, really began to change. I felt these factors were totally incompatible with socialism and the Labour Party and the modern left specifically, so I left. However, upon ‘leaving the left’, I did not suddenly become a Thatcherite or a GDP-worshipper; I remained a communitarian, in accordance with my inherent natural values and those of the Church. As my journey into small-c conservatism had been tied to both my faith and to the developments of Brexit, my abandonment of socialism came at the time of Boris Johnson’s leadership of the Conservative Party. Had Boris not been leader of the party, I would not have joined, but I felt encouraged by this party which I had once reviled, suddenly feeling like it was listening to people like me. And the Conservatives were the only party doing that. So I joined.
Now, I was under no illusions that suddenly the Conservative Party was some distributist or Christian democrat party, but I felt that there was a momentum of a genuine One Nation conservatism that was not just focused on growth for its own sake, but with a human face for the genuine betterment of the country. While I have been disappointed with aspects of Boris’ premiership, I also believe that his leadership of the party has allowed people with different conceptualisations of conservatism to bring their ideas to the table. To be more specific, his leadership has allowed the party to break away from a standard Thatcherite orthodoxy and has made room for varied and productive discussions on what we ought to be doing and how. For me, being a member of the Conservatives has exposed me to brilliant discussions with fascinating people, all who have a much less monolithic set of ideals than one presumes Tories may have as an outsider. That spirit of debate and respect for diversity of opinion is so different to what I had grown accustomed to — and resentful of — on the left.
Ultimately, my opinions on a variety of issues do differentiate from what one expects from a Tory. I still do not identify as a unionist (I would however vote No to independence in the near future, but that’s another story), I do not celebrate the legacy of Margaret Thatcher or David Cameron in the way that many Tories (understandably) do, however I feel totally free to be able to have that difference of opinion within the party. I have grown very fond of the party and its members in a way I did not expect to, and I do not in any way feel like I have compromised my values by being a Conservative. Rather, I have been able to develop and share them, and learn from others. Overall, I do not think compassionate, communitarian values are juxtaposed to conservatism — big or small c, and my move from left to right has been smoother than I ever imagined.