Why liberals should embrace living in Conservative constituencies
When I moved from a Labour stronghold to a Tory safe seat I was wary. I should’ve seen it as an opportunity.
I’d lived in London for almost exactly a decade before my partner and I decided it was time to venture a bit further out. Needing to be within commuting distance of the capital for our jobs, yet with no mutual family connections pulling us to one particular area, we had the freedom — and enormous privilege — to choose somewhere completely new to us.
We finally found an area that felt like a good fit for our expanding family and budget: nice houses, decent state schools to choose from, lots of green spaces nearby, plenty of community amenities and a reasonable train journey into London. Job done. Except for the enormous downside: the area was one of the bluest Tory constituencies around. So much so that even the most blustering Conservative candidate couldn’t fail to win each time a general election came around.
It felt unnerving moving to an area where the views and values of its MP no longer mirrored my own. Where I couldn’t rely on my elected representative to speak on my behalf in the corridors of power.
Before I lived here I cared about many issues. But because I lived in a safe Labour seat where I could trust my MP to carry out her duties appropriately on my behalf, I was never motivated to take my citizenship to the next level. I was engaged but I wasn’t vocal, and I certainly wasn’t active. In other words I was politically complacent.
And yet there we were in 2017, having just moved to an area where — politically — the simplest thing to do was to do nothing at all for fear of disrupting the comfortable status quo.
It would’ve been easy to slide into this life of quiet comfort that our many privileges had handed to us. But 2020 was, of course, different. And as my personal mantra shifted from ‘be nice’ to ‘speak out’, so did my approach to political activism.
This year’s conveyor belt of crises made me realise that staying silent on matters of social justice was no longer an option for me, because I couldn’t trust my MP to do the appropriate legwork. So I started being vocal. I constantly urged my MP to act on crucial matters, even though I knew he’d unfailingly do the opposite. And, when he did just that, I made sure I took appropriate action myself in an attempt to compensate for his passivity.
I’m convinced this wouldn’t be happening if I still lived in London, where I always felt convinced that, beyond signing petitions and donating to causes, what difference could I possibly make.
COVID-19 has changed so much. But it’s also had a devastating effect on the capital. I know many families who are choosing to leave London’s zones behind in search of space and calm elsewhere in the country. But I also know the dread that many of those people may feel when they realise just how blue the rest of England actually is.
But this isn’t something that anyone should feel daunted by. In fact, if a swell of politically-engaged thinkers do indeed end up leaving London, it could have enormous ramifications for the political landscape in the medium-to-long-term. Because, like me, their complacency is likely to give way to local, determined activism.
Thinkers will become doers.
And, if enough of us commit to making positive progress in our new communities, the blue will eventually give way to something else. It may not immediately flip to another primary colour, but it will gradually begin to fade into something way more interesting and unpredictable.
So if you’re thinking about moving out of London but have been put-off by the political tendencies of certain areas, know this: “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together”. Make the move. Get focused, and get active. However small your actions are, they add up. And the more of you who are there to take them — especially in areas where they may not have been taken before — the bigger the change will ultimately be.
It’s time to disrupt the suburban status quo. Let’s get to work.