Notes from a small island

April 18, 1997

Three academics explain how and why they will vote

I support the Conservative party for the same reasons I do West Bromwich Albion - partisan loyalty, a preference for the underdog, and intense dislike of rival teams.

I was born in working-class north London and the Conservative party was one of three institutions at the top of my father's hate list - the others were the Monarchy and Ford motor company. So, at school and university I supported Labour. Later, I went through my fence-sitting period: I would decide how to vote at each election on the merits of the respective cases. I stopped on the grounds of that system's unimaginable dreariness. Partisanship is one of the few things which makes life interesting.

I bought a season ticket for the Albion and took out a subscription to the Conservative party. They are both natural second division teams, underdogs who can only make it to the big time by hard work, the stupidity of their opponents, and luck. Over the past decade the Conservatives have enjoyed such conditions. We should never forget how much their recovery in the 1970s depended on the trade unions and the SNP-initiated confidence vote in the Commons. Nor should we forget the lunacy of the Labour left in the 1980s and the idiocy of John Smith's tax proposals in 1992.

In fact there are no alternatives. Who in their right mind could support the leadership of the Liberal Democrats and New Labour? Where Europe is concerned they march forward holding a banner with one slogan on it - "Back to Vichy". No sensible person supports the Conservative party for positive reasons. You support the Conservatives for the same reasons that you support the Albion, reasons rooted in emotional spasms, not nice calculations. My attachment to the Conservatives is the less intense of the two. A defeat at the coming election will be a little local difficulty, and no more. However, I have one small caveat. Any party leaders who can all but destroy what used to be the best higher education system in the world deserve, perhaps, to go down the tubes. But will David Blunkett do any better? I doubt it.

Jim Bulpitt is professor of politics, Warwick University.

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