A study of the working-class Tory

This article has been written on the basis of a preliminary survey in Clapham and Stevenage.

there are many people in the Labour Party who still believe that the “working class Tory voter” is a myth. The working class Tory has been treated as an isolated deviant, a fabricated figment projected both by the Conservative Central Office and the left wing extremists to embarass the Party. For some years, the Party has been geared, at each election, to “getting out the Labour vote”—the safe assumption being that the social composition of Labour’s support is a fixed, immutable fact, and that the only barrier to an electoral victory was the “reluctance” of the working class to cast a vote.

This picture has never, in fact, been wholly true, and it is less true now than it has ever been. What has still to be analysed and discussed are the characteristic attitudes of the large minority of working people who, at the last election, recorded a Conservative vote.

“The Conservative Party is the gentleman’s Party. They’re the people who have got the money. I always vote for them. I’m only a working man and they’re my guv’nors.”

The man who said this to me—a 61 year old plumber, living in a pre-war council flat in Clapham—might be thought untypical. He came from a country family—both he and his wife had been brought up in a Cotswold village—and the roots of his Conservatism could no doubt be traced back to the villager’s traditional deference to the local gentry. His work, too, may have been more than commonly deferential—much of his time had been spent in the buildings of Royalty, Government and the Academy. But his views were representative. They describe the main features of what might be called the ‘deference vote’.

“They’ve got the money, and the people with money are the people you look up to.”