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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 14:21 GMT 15:21 UK
'I'm a trendy Tory - and I don't fit in'
Jo-Anne Nadler in a cafe
Jo-Anne Nadler: "Some treat it like an affliction"
The "coming out" of a senior Conservative has given the party another bout of soul-searching. Jo-Anne Nadler, a 30-something city gal (and a Tory), tells how she often feels in a minority of one.

Twenty years ago I came out as a teenage Tory. Down came the posters of Starsky and Hutch. Up went my new heroes, the Tory avengers, Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbit.

Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse in character
Tory Boy and chum
School friends thought this was a bit odd but I didn't really understand why until I joined the Young Conservatives. I discovered quickly that regardless of the appeal of Conservatism, Tories themselves are often its worst advert.

Harry Enfield's Tory Boy caricature was alive and well and all too prevalent in YC circles. I could quite see that no-one would want to take lectures from pint-sized, proselytising, pin-striped buffoons. It wasn't really my scene but I was hooked by the ideas of the time which were dynamic and radical.

'Party of privilege'

But it was hard to persuade people of that when the left has always had an air of danger. From Marx to Billy Bragg it was just so much more cutting edge.

Jo-Anne Nadler
"Being a Tory isn't trendy"
It's a curious state of affairs.

The Conservatives have been right on all the major points of policy over the past 30 years and yet for many they are simply unpalatable.

They transformed the economy. They faced up to external threats and helped to bring down the Iron Curtain.

But to many, despite the radical Thatcher years, the Tory party is still the party of privilege. Add to that the feeling that Tories aren't very clever, that it's a party of 'chinless wonders'.

Mrs Thatcher after winning for a third time
Margaret Thatcher in her reforming heyday
And there's the damaging impression of recent years that Tories especially are sleazy, dislike foreigners, are homophobic and sexist, parochial, unsophisticated and reactionary.

You can understand why in the metropolitan media circles I mix in, I have often found that my conviction has been treated like an affliction. But it is a conviction.

Conviction, not affliction

I do believe that Conservative ideas are essentially decent, meritocratic and without prejudice even if I have often cringed at the worst excesses of party spokesmen.

Alan Duncan
Alan Duncan: First sitting Tory MP to come out
Just a week ago the party made headlines for the wrong reasons: a feud between its leader and former chairman. 'Here we go again', I thought.

It's the kind of embarrassing spat Tory supporters have grown all too used to. They are nothing to do with me - so much so that I want to cry.

A few months ago the nation was gripped by another unsightly row. Chewing over brioche and cappuccino I read the headlines about Sven and Ulrika. Her most below the belt blow was to label Sven not just a love rat but worse: he was 'like a Tory caught with his trousers down'.

Political pariah

That's it, I thought. I've always known it just wasn't trendy to be a Tory - I certainly did not draw attention to it when I worked in the music business - but now it's a suits-all-occasions generic insult!

Being a Tory is now a social taboo

I've grown used to friends who say, 'This is Jo-Anne - she's a Tory but she is very nice really'.

I've also grown used to the dinner parties that suddenly go quiet and disapproving when I launch into a staunch defence of Tory policy. I've learnt that it's not a great first date subject!

Being a Tory is now a social taboo. But unless the party itself wins a new battle of ideas, I seem doomed to support today's most unfashionable minority cause.

Jo-Anne Nadler is a former Conservative Central Office staffer and the biographer of William Hague. Her second book, Too Nice to be a Tory, will be published next year.

Here are some of your comments so far:

As a Guardian-reading, do-good lefty, I would have thought it impossible to have a loving relationship with a card-carrying conservative activist. Yet in the five years Louise and I have been together, we've learned that the only thing we can't do together is to watch Question Time. Reason being that we couldn't watch more than 10 minutes without engaging in a political dogfight that makes PMQs look like a WI meeting. We seem to have mellowed each other, though - we now both vote Lib Dem, since we're so disgusted with our formerly favoured parties.
Ben Harding, UK

As a Republican in Chicago, the most Democratic city in the US, it's not easy being me. People treat me like I have leprosy. All that I can do is continue to stand up for what I believe in and not waver.
Edward V Sullivan, US

In the 1980s it was more of a millstone being a member of the Labour Party, eg: "that Neil Kinnock is a Welsh windbag", "are you a Trotskyist?" etc.
Paul, Wales

I used to be a member of the Tory party but cannot foresee a renewal of my membership soon. IDS is just as unelectable as Hague. I would have voted for Ken Clarke, but for now I will have to stick with Labour, which is where most "trendy Tories" would feel more at home.
Matthew Mcilvenna, Tanzania

I am a Democrat in a state with a right-wing, religious, anti-government streak. While I am not totally isolated, I know which neighbours to talk politics with, and which ones not to.
Scott, North Carolina, US

I'm 23, well-liked, progressively libertarian, and a very eurosceptic Tory. My friends peruse the Guardian and sit in cafes conjecturing about social idealism. I want the same things - a fair society, good services, a clean environment - but I'm immediately branded narrow-minded and elitist even before I've begun to speak!
Russ Moore, United Kingdom

I am a Labour supporter in an area that is very SNP - if they can be bothered with politics at all. I am also 20-years-old, an age where friends think that politics are distinctly untrendy. If you know what you believe in then it is worth supporting.
Jacqueline Barclay, Scotland

I'm a student of politics at a very left wing university. I have been raised in a distinctly socialist environment (even carted round to help raise money for the miners as a 3-year-old). However I am a member of the Young Conservatives. When it came out, everyone seemed shocked and some even laughed. But when everyone had calmed down, people remembered that I was still me.
Jo , UK

While I find myself sympathising with the philosophical ideas behind the policies, the Tories themselves are such in-fighting, self-destructing egomaniacs. This is one reason why I am disillusioned with the political process, the party that most represents my views is not capable of running the country.
Tom, UK

Tebbit's comments today [in the Spectator] illustrate exactly the problem for IDS. The majority of Tories ARE decent, fair-minded, down-to-earth people but there is a sizeable minority who do have an innate fear of foreigners, gays and career women. Until they die out, the party will for ever be plagued by comments which belong at the beginning of the last century.
Catherine Dibble, former Tory candidate, UK

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