In Floating Voters Week we are presenting views from teachers who didn’t vote Labour at one or both of the last two general elections. This one is from Heather, a teacher of history and politics. She has no party affiliations.
My voting choice has never been knowingly based on self-interest. In the past I’ve always voted to keep the Tories out. This was because I believed that Thatcher’s individualistic economic polices broke crucial social bonds. She didn’t understand that everyone’s quality of life was reduced when public services were run into the ground and her tax cuts far too conveniently benefited the richest over the poorest. I voted Labour in 2010 because I believed that Labour had done a good job of turning Britain around and harsh cuts would be counter-productive.
Despite all this it was the Conservative box on the ballot paper that got my cross this time. I was convinced a Conservative majority was a possibility because I was the sort of voter Labour had persuaded in the past but I was now disillusioned. My drift away from support for Labour was very gradual, although the process was undoubtedly expedited by joining twitter, with its vociferous and aggressive condemnation of the depravity of anyone daring to question left wing/liberal orthodoxy. I came to question what I saw as core Labour assumptions.
It’s all about the money
It came as a shock to realise that the reason my daughter’s primary school was doing a poor job was not because it was underfunded. A child centred progressive ideology meant children had not been taught the basics well. In fact the number of teaching assistants had mushroomed, at great cost, to make these child led approaches work. I had supported education initiatives such as Sure Start but I slowly came to the conclusion that New Labour had just thrown money at difficult intractable problems that can’t be easily solved – and Miliband showed no sign of changing spending approach. Worse, our nation’s debt was growing but Labour seemed to denounce every single cut, as if austerity was a moral choice, not an economic one.
The poor are always victims
The state MUST be there to help those in need but most people want ‘a hand up not a hand out’ and aspire to better their lives and the lives of their children. Ed Miliband’s Labour party seemed to want to rescue the poor not aid them in their aspirations. I was born and brought up on council estates, raised on benefits. I’ve seen first-hand how welfare can create a culture of dependency and entitlement. I disliked the counterproductive mentality I saw among Labour supporters that sought to excuse the actions of people because they are poor. In schools this mentality leads to offering sympathy and excuses for bad behaviour and progress because children are poor and therefore victims, denying their agency, rather than having high expectations they can learn to live up to. If children mess around in class this is bad behaviour. If parents regularly send their children to school without breakfast this is bad parenting.
The poor need different treatment
Labour only ever opposed Gove’s attempts to give all children an academic education that the well-off take for granted. This desire to give a dumbed down ‘relevant’, ‘skills based’ and ‘fun’ curriculum to poorer classes linked in my mind to the tedious identity politics Labour was obsessed with and also to an instrumentalist approach to society I had grown to dislike from the Blair years.
To me, many of the problems I saw in education were the inevitable outcome of the sort of broader beliefs held by many Labour supporters and Miliband. There seemed only limited risk of Cameron reintroducing the worst excesses of Thatcherism and the conservatives were the only ones that would protect Gove’s education reforms. Therefore on the day I voted for the least-worst option.