The Black Tory Paradox
I’m a mixed-race man and identify as a Conservative. Yes, this is a shock to some, but why?
As a British politics postgraduate from King’s College London, I have been involved with the Conservative Party for just under four years. Yet, I don’t want to talk in this article about why Black people should join the Conservative Party. Instead, I’m going to focus on the psychological purgatory I, and I am sure many others have found myself trapped in-the moral and logistical paradox of being Black and Conservative.
I became a Conservative due to my core instincts. For instance: I’m a eurosceptic and I feel uneasy over long-term high public spending. I may not agree with Kemi Badenoch however, who in her speech to the House of Commons last October, argued the history of Black Britons and Black Americans are incomparable. Yes, they are two separate nations, but Black people on both sides of the Atlantic suffered from mass-oppression, and racism is the same regardless of what country it is found in. However, I just don’t actually believe, despite their good intentions, Labour can be trusted to govern effectively.
Labour historically veers too far to the left, which happened through the 1980s and the 2010s, which alienates moderate voters at elections. Even now, the Labour Party is teetering on the brink of a civil war that could well see it lose the next election, and the most successful Labour Prime Minister-the only one that has won an election since 1974 (three times in a row), Tony Blair, is now the Party’s bogeyman. Thanks to lingering resentment over the Iraq war and New Labour’s distancing from traditional left-wing radicalism.
Despite this, it is clear the left views Black Conservatism morally reprehensible.
In my university’s Afro-Caribbean Society group-chat, I was labelled as ‘anti-black’ for supporting the Tories in 2019, despite being firmly against two more highly divisive referendums on Brexit and Scottish Independence that Labour were offering.
I’ve had similar accusations from older, middle-class white people “I’ll learn” I was apparently told by a white, middle-class, socialist when she found out I was a Tory. A “traitor to my ancestors” I was called by a white Labour council candidate.
Yes, I understand why people, especially Black people, choose to vote for the Labour Party. The party’s historical support of immigration, and events such as the racially charged River of Blood speech by Enoch Powell, placed Labour as the party that was for the oppressed.
Afua Hirsch’s 2018 Guardian article, ‘After Windrush, how can black Tories stand by their party?’ asks a very reasonable question. I believe that the reasonable response would be “would Labour even want me?”
This is where the paradox lies. If I did join Labour, I would be joining Labour solely because I am Black, whilst at the same time, disagreeing with their economic policy and social ideology. Much of my core views-euroscepticism, my belief in controlling public spending, would need to be compromised. Besides, one could ask Hirsch, as someone with Jewish heritage, how she tolerates the factions of the Labour Party with their recent anti-Semitism issues.
The answer, I’m sure she would give, would be the same as a Black Conservative. She would likely say she simply feels an affinity with Labour’s core principles.
Core beliefs are the crux of these choices.
However, there is a way to solve this paradox. This binary Labour-Conservative electoral choice presented by the first-past-the-post voting system that punishes smaller parties in elections is the problem. Yet, as the last referendum on electoral reform was in 2011, which resulted in a landslide victory for the status-quo, that binary choice is here to stay. Therefore, we need more moderate Black Conservative council and parliamentary candidates representative of the wider Black community and not just from middle-class, privately educated backgrounds.
Through this, the breeding ground for the Conservative Party’s racism would surely diminish and in turn, the Tories would eventually become a respectable party for Black people to vote for and be a member of. As long as moderate Black people are put off from joining the Tories due to societal pressures, Labour would continue to monoplise our vote even at times when it does not deserve it. Black Britons may be stuck with the choice of voting for a party they may have no innate connection with and question their ability to handle government, or be a traitor to their entire race, which is a ridiculous position for a voter of a democratic country.
So yes, call me a traitor to my race, but I believe I will put my money where my mouth is and stay in the Conservative Party to, as cliche as it sounds, be the change that I seek.