I realised that the Tories were going to thump it while getting stuck into the champers at a wedding the weekend before polling day. Old friends from university barely let the bride and groom pick the confetti from their hair before collaring me: ‘Miliband can’t seriously win? I mean, come on! What are you doing to stop him, darling?’
It was clear that something had changed. This was the same crowd that once looked at me as if I’d publicly admitted a penchant for sodomising livestock when I openly discussed my political allegiances during our student days. While I always presumed they were ‘small c’ conservatives — shy Tories — with a smattering of champagne socialists and a solitary Lib Dem, these things were never talked about. There has been the odd Facebook status pushing the latest ‘clicktivist’ fad or harrumphing about the right to shred foxes from the more rural types, but all in all most of the people I spent my formative years with couldn’t give a crap about politics, let alone the fortunes of the Conservative party. Or so I thought until the wedding.
Returning to the office on that Monday — and reporting this clear groundswell of support for Dave — I was told I was talking crazy and to look at the polls. I wish I had had the balls, and access to capital, of that Scottish pensioner who walked away with a quarter of a million after sticking £30,000 on a Tory majority that week. Fools regret.
It has not always been this easy, though. At a late-night luvvie bash a few years ago I got into a drunken row with Tracey Emin when trying to subtly praise her for coming out for Cameron in 2010. So used to being attacked for her lukewarm Conservatism, Emin thought I must be taking the piss. Our national treasure was not alone in being sensitive. By the time I had made my position clear and she had stopped shouting, there seemed little point in continuing the conversation.
Our national treasure was not alone in being sensitive, but it feels different now. Labour fought on solid lefty ground and were thumped. The Liberals were totally annihilated. If you broadly supported what the coalition had achieved, then what on earth was the point of voting Liberal Democrat?
It feels as if the right are finally getting the credit that they deserve for being, well, right. From the cash-rich fluttering pensioners to the rahs of Sussex, suddenly wearing one’s Tory loyalty on one’s sleeve is socially acceptable. Anecdotal data backs this up: vaguely right-wing posts on social media that once spelled social ostracism are now greeted with a flurry of likes, retweets and shares.
More serious pieces of election analysis will be written, but one thing that cannot be ignored is the gurning gift that was Ed Miliband, who made it impossible to support Labour and retain any semblance of normality. His legacy, and we are being kind in affording him one, is that he ruined the left’s entitlement to cool.
Yet something else has happened, too. Having attended Tory party conferences for nearly a decade, I’ve noticed a shift in recent years. Yes, a vast swathe of the colonels and the blue-rinse brigade have croaked it, but that slightly unpleasant frothier fringe of the party has disappeared too, presumably jumping ship to Ukip. The active party base is younger, darker, more metropolitan and certainly more tolerant.
‘It’s always been a real problem for me because of the stigma it’s carried,’ bleats delusional Ivan Massow. ‘It was harder coming out as Conservative than as gay.’ The entrepreneur found it so hard that he defected to Labour, but is now back in the Tories and running for mayor.
The prophets of doom said gay marriage would send Cameron to political oblivion, having lost older core activists. If anything, the opposite came true. In one fell swoop Downing Street enabled the 6 per cent of voters who are gay a proper choice at the election. While many Tory activists did jump to Ukip, the policy opened up the party to previously unreachable voters.
The million-strong increase in ethnic-minority Tory voters cannot be ignored, either. It’s been a long road to shed that nasty party image, and it’s increasingly clear that the public are noticing.
When a paper like the Independent feels able to endorse Cameron, things really have changed. So no more of this shy Tory nonsense. Out and proud, please.
Hi. My name is Harry, and I voted Tory.