Rishi Goenka is a school governor, trustee of a refugee charity, works in business, and is Conservative Party activist in Tooting.
People visualising a Conservative voter, typically picture pale, male and stale – an old white heterosexual male living in provincial Britain.
So, when they find out that an Indian-origin millennial in London, who migrated to this country, is a card-carrying member and activist of the Conservative Party, their expression is often of bewilderment and shock.
Some even go as far as labelling me a traitor. I have found that these people are often from the Left, who only seem to use their crusades against stereotyping when it suits them.
It is a tad insulting to assume that all young, foreign-born, brown, urban people vote Labour, pigeon-holding someone based on physical and demographic attributes rather than one’s intellect or personal experiences. I find this highly irritating, and after challenging such people for reducing me to a cliché, I begin the long process of educating them that Conservatives come in all shapes, sizes, and physical attributes.
I then go on to narrate my personal experience and the reasons why I vote Conservative.
A bit about me first to set the scene. I was born and brought up in a Marwari family in communist Calcutta and tech capital Bangalore, and now reside in the vibrant community of Tooting in southwest London.
I moved to the UK to study Economics and Finance at Durham University, which was a life changing experience. I met my best friends and partner at Durham, fell in love with British culture, worked at the University offices and the Union Bar, and defended free speech as President of the Durham Union.
After graduating from Durham, I decided to stay on in Britannia (much to my parents’ annoyance) and got a job in business in London, where I champion diversity in the workplace. I am a proud governor of my local primary school, trustee of my local refugee charity, and a Deputy Ward Chair in my local Conservative Association.
Now to the reasons why I vote Conservative. Having been born in Calcutta, I have seen first hand the economic and human cost of the disaster that is socialism. Calcutta had the longest serving democratically-elected Communist government in the world (over 30 years!) and witnessed the plunder of industry and a huge flight of capital and talent during this period.
Thanks to socialism, the city that used to be the capital of the Empire east of the Suez, and the beating heart of Indian industry, fell into poverty and population decline which continues to this day – only major city in India with a population decline and no direct flights to London.
For the survival of their business, my parents decided to shut shop in Calcutta and moved to Bangalore, the shining new tech and business capital of India. This gave me my first teachings in Conservative values of business, entrepreneurship, free enterprise and sound economic policies.
At Durham, I learned more about the importance of sound economic management as part of my Economics degree, which furthered my Tory beliefs. This was also where, as President of the Durham Union, I had to defend free speech on multiple occasions against attacks from vitriolic left-wing no-platforming and censorship.
(As a student from abroad in the UK, I must say that I am delighted to see that Priti Patel has moved to introduce the post-study work visa and an Australian-style points-based immigration system, welcoming the best and brightest into the country, irrespective of where they come from.)
Working in business in London now, I am fully behind the Government’s pledge to increase the National Living Wage, reduce unemployment, support businesses, and reduce the burden of taxation on working people. It is amazing to see the transformation of Tooting, with new businesses opening on the High Street and bringing the dying markets back to life. I must also commend Rishi Sunak’s excellent economic response to the Coronavirus pandemic – compassionate One Nation Conservatism at its best!
As a governor of my local primary school, I applaud Boris Johnson’s pledge to increase primary school funding and teachers’ salaries. Being a trustee of my local refugee charity, I am proud of the Home Secretary’s initiative to increase local policing as crime affects vulnerable people disproportionately. As a neighbour of St George’s Hospital, I am very grateful for Matt Hancock’s plan to invest millions into its equipment and staff.
The list goes on. Being a life long vegetarian, I am pleased to see the Government’s ambitious zero emissions target, tree planting initiative, and animal welfare measures. As a millennial, I strongly support its focus on mental health and helping people buy their first home, two topics that affect young people the most. Having spent half my time in the UK in Durham, I am incredibly happy to see the Conservatives win in the North East (having campaigned their in the general election) and taking positive strides in the Northern Powerhouse initiative.
For me, Conservatism is about personal liberties and responsibility. It is about equality of opportunity, compassion and creating a better tomorrow. It is about, not where you come from but where you’re going. A hand up, not a hand out. I know so many other “non-cliché” Conservative voters who feel the same.
I end with a plea to the Left – please stop stereotyping us and playing vote-bank politics. You can be who ever you want in this country (and that includes a Tory)!