Dominique Samuels | Opinion
Socio-economic disadvantage can do a lot to shape your identity early on in life. For me, those identities varied as I grew as a person. Many things contributed to the person I am today, to the beliefs I hold now. Some of them are events that the average person probably doesn’t experience, and a few of them are experiences that the average person can probably relate to. Coming from a single-parent household, the statistics place me at the bottom of the heap in British society, not just because of single-parenthood, but also because I am a) non-white, b) a female and c) poor. My mother was always very clear about those factors, and why for me, if I were to succeed, I would have to work twice as hard for anything than everybody else.
Work ethic and ambition are things that I had had instilled within me from an early age. Because my father had passed away, and my mum did not have functional relations with either side of her family, the onus was on her to go out there and put food on the table for two fatherless children that it was her responsibility to care for. My mother used the free-market principles that are ingrained within British society, the principles of hard-work and innovation. She took those values and used them to create a business.
Now, we’re not talking anything fancy, like finance. We’re talking a good, honest wage, a cleaning company, with an iconic logo, colour code and name: The Pink Ladies Cleaning Company. With that, my mother was able to move her children out of where she had spent most of her life: in deprived areas. Her parents, although they weren’t perfect, also instilled within her an ambition and a work ethic that never left her, an ethic that she eventually passed onto me.
For me, this was difficult. I was taken away from my friends that I was used to, familiarities that I as a child had grown to revere and love before we moved out of Moss-Side. I remember writing notes on paper begging my mum to move me back to my old school because I was unfamiliar with my environment. I wasn’t used to children that spoke with ‘posh’ accents, with two parents, with big houses; although I too now had that, with a mum that worked tirelessly to provide it, I wasn’t used to being surrounded by people that operated that way as if it were the norm. I eventually learned to talk like them, to be able to relate to them and become friendly with them, so much so that I didn’t need to ‘try’ to change the way I spoke, it now came naturally. Those that I had known before and those that knew my sister now thought of me as the ‘posh’ one. My mum still thinks of me as ‘posh’, though I must remind her at University, being a northerner is associated with anything but ‘posh’.
My experience is one that you could class as unique, because not everybody from deprived areas have the same chances that I have had. Not all of them have a parent that knows what is best for their child, that sacrifices everything to ensure that their child has the best start in life, even if that means uprooting everything those children are used to and making it work no matter the consequences. When my mum moved us into our 200-year-old terraced house in Stretford, that she bought with her hard-earned money, I knew that she felt a sense of proudness and ownership. It was because of her hard work and nobody else’s that she was able to say that her children were going to one of the best schools in the area, that she was able to afford her own house by ‘scrubbing other people’s toilets’, as she so phrased it. You could say that I am privileged in that sense, which I most definitely am. I am proud to say that if it wasn’t for my mum, I wouldn’t be where I am today, able to do the things I do and experience the things I have/had the honour to experience.
Like I said before, all of this has shaped the person I am today, but most importantly my politics. After seeing people in the same socioeconomic position as I suffer the way they have, with governmental policies, whether they’re from the left or the right, be (un)willingly ignorant to the realities that the poor face, I have always wanted to make a change. But the change that I seek is probably different to what people expect of me. Sorry to disappoint, but I am not a socialist, nor a communist, or anything of the sort. I don’t believe the way to solve the poor’s ills is ‘class war’, or ‘seizing the means of production’, et cetera. I don’t believe in the identity politics that have now descended on our political discourse and turned politics into an ugly shouting match of ‘who is entitled to have an opinion because of them fitting into __ category’.
I don’t like it.
Interestingly enough, it was the EU referendum that helped me realise where my political beliefs lay. Seeing the poor disgruntled with how things were going, disgruntled by the statistics that said they were doing better yet they could not see any of those benefits, helped me decide where I stood on a multitude of issues. Many of the opinions of those who supported leaving the European Union were phrased as ‘racist’, ‘fascist’, or ‘bigoted’. A lot of the time working-class people are patronised this way, told that they are too stupid to be able to comprehend or make informed decisions on major political events. That paired with my growing interest in British conservatism and its many branches, I realised where I stood, and it was increasingly at odds with the ‘left’ of the spectrum, as many like to call it.
Surprisingly enough, I’m not a Conservative because I hate the poor. I know what it is like to be poor. And quite frankly, if a policy is deemed ‘socialist’ but works, I am all for it, because the greater good surpasses personal ideology. I’m not a Conservative because I’m an ‘Uncle Tom’. I know and care about how neglectful policies negatively affect black communities in particular, but I’m also not afraid to say what needs to be said. I’m not a Conservative because I believe the Conservative Party is perfect. There are many supporters of conservatism as an ideology that are at complete odds with the national party and its policies. The neo-liberal trend that has run rampant within the party’s branding is something that I don’t particularly like or endorse.
I’m a Conservative because I know what it is like to have nothing and to let hard work prevail. That’s not to say that there aren’t other factors that stop certain groups from letting hard work prevail, of course I accept that, but hard work and perseverance should be at the core of how our society operates, that in itself, and my experiences surrounding it, has changed my life and the person I am today and for those reasons, I call myself a Conservative.