Christine West

What really happened when I had coffee with Toby Young

What really happened when I had coffee with Toby Young
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I was one of those protesters outside the Tory conference last week. I was getting stuck in to venting five and a half years’ worth of pent-up anger about this government as members walked in. And then a Tory man - who looked like the usual Tory sort who can afford to be well-dressed all of the time like the the rest of their clan - approached me. He turned out to be a journalist who wanted to talk to a protester. I agreed.

Toby Young wrote about our meeting last week. Here’s my side of the story. I spoke from my heart, about how I had cried whilst reading stories about Atos and people being pushed over the edge. And then again at the terrible plight of the refugees.

‘But the Conservatives do want to help the poor,’ Toby retorted. I demanded an example. He could only offer overseas aid, but was stumped when I asked for examples from home. I was impressed: normally Tories have an answer for everything.

The list of grievances that we have as protesters is so long that I didn’t have time to mention to him that according to the New Policy Institute, 300,000 more children have fallen into poverty over the last two years. We talked about the wealthiest earning more than everyone else put together, and my incredulity that he thinks the gap between the rich and poor is getting narrower.

I told Toby that I’ve been homeless myself, and was a single parent who lived in abject poverty for three years while training to be a nurse. I was lucky that the state re-housed me and gave me a small bursary of £600. Having lived through these experiences, I feel that I am entitled to empathise with those poverty-stricken people who the state can no longer help to rehouse.

To my surprise, I found out that my Tory interviewer had a sister who was a nurse, and he told me that he hadn’t come from a highly privileged background. I was surprised, too, that he was prepared to listen to my views.

But I still believe the Tories put the rich first, not help the poor. They do not represent working people and they never will.