How I went from a Tory to supporting independence – and why it shows that we need to be inclusive
Robert William Hughes
I am a socialist Plaid Cymru supporter, but once upon a time, I was a Tory.
I first got into politics around the age of 14, which was around the Scottish independence referendum. I remember all the concept flags drawn up by the public, trying to incorporate Wales into the flag, in the event Scotland leaves.
I remember standing in the bay window on the day of the referendum telling my mum how much Scotland would lose, and that I didn’t get why they hated us so much as to want to leave.
After the result, I bought a Union Jack and hung it up on my wall. My mum bought me some union jack bedding and a union jack rug to go in my room. I was well on the way to becoming a hard-core unionist.
I was always taught to be proud of the Union and of what some people perceive to be its glory days. Most of my mates voted Labour, and so did many people who weren’t particularly nice to me growing up.
I really loved Theresa May, and I liked David Cameron for the fact that he mentioned Wales on a talk show in the USA. I felt that finally someone appreciated or was representing Wales.
When I was 15, I walked around in England football tops. I always watched England play football. I did genuinely just see myself as British. The Tory party offered an image of the country I wanted to belong to which to me, just seemed right.
I am a physics student, and most jobs I wanted to do were typically Tory as I saw it back then. So, it just felt like a path I was destined to walk along. I wouldn’t have thought that much about other people at that time. I just wanted to do well in life. I came from a school which wasn’t exactly great. So, if I can end up doing well, couldn’t any child? What was stopping them?
My Aunty Dot is a Tory, so was my Aunty Em, who has passed away. They used to be nurses and they basically said that the Tory party was the party for the educated, or those in higher education. It made sense to me. I just saw myself as someone who had better opportunities and wanted to vote to protect them.
I then went off to University in Lincoln and met a load of Tory students. Most often or not the usual jokes were made – sheep this and that and so on. That never bothered me. I would often go on nights out with them, have a few drinks, and just do what university students do really. One night I was sat in a bar and got attacked by some EDL wannabes.
My Tory pals also often used to blame homeless people for being homeless. One of them waved money in the face of a woman on a night out once. In the space of about six months at university, a lot of little things like that happening over and over. I finally questioned why I believed in the Tory party. However, it would be another four months before I became IndyCurious.
Cofiwch Dryweryn was the final nail in the coffin of my flirtation with Toryism. I just couldn’t justify the UK anymore. Child poverty was on the up. I started to think about the kinds of barriers other people face. I grew up pretty quickly, and my morals changed rapidly.
I then learned about Tonypandy, Epynt, Tryweryn, Aberfan, Gresford, Dic Penderyn, Gwenllian and many more.
YesCymru had released a YouTube video about independence. It mentioned how much energy Wales produces, and as someone studying physics I began to see the enormous potential in Wales as an independent nation.
I gradually became more annoyed at the obvious xenophobia and racism displayed more openly by certain “friends”, so I disassociated myself from them and moved further and further left on the political spectrum.
I met Irish people around this time, they educated me about how their families suffered at the hands of Thatcher and Churchill. I am now well and truly a socialist.
I see an awful lot of similarities between Labour and Tories, both in Westminster and the Senedd, so Plaid was the obvious choice for me. Adam Price caught my attention as a solid political candidate, and I was sold on them as a party.
Tories aren’t bad people. I don’t think my aunts are evil monsters. They just see the world differently, and they can be won over.
What I want to stress is, if people in the independence movement had alienated me, I’d never had of opened my eyes. I would never have reconsidered my political views.
If I had been told that I wasn’t welcome, and that I was a bad person, my views would have hardened and I would have stayed where I was.
After being around many Tories, I no longer trust Westminster to protect me or any future children, and definitely not the economy of Wales.
People can and do change their views over time, and the fact that the independence movement is warm, open, and inclusive helped me do just that.