Over the past few months, I have seen a trend forming amongst the politically active youth, whether it be through Facebook, Instagram or conversations I’ve had with people in smoking areas of clubs. The youth hate Tories so much, it seems that they have lost the ability to accept them altogether. I have seen it especially in my short time in Leeds.I consistently see the likes of; ‘don’t talk to me if you vote tory’, ‘no tories on my profile’, ‘fuck all conservatives’, ‘never kiss a tory’ through social media and just through conversations with strangers.
Now I am by no means saying that I am a Tory myself. I am 19 year old mixed race guy from a Labour stronghold in North London and have a lot respect for my MP. But I don’t really like associating myself with any political party directly. I simply vote on what I feel in part will make this country a more collaborative and desirable place to live in, but that doesn’t have to mean that I root for one party necessarily and indefinitely. It just so happens to be Labour at the moment. After all, parties consistently lie and change their philosophy in order to achieve the obvious function of an election, to gain power. Take Labour during the Blair years, most people would agree that Blairism has almost none of the characteristics of traditional Labour values. Blair in 97’ understood that the consensus had shifted, and in order to gain power for his party, he needed to adapt. Parties are self-seeking; they very rarely stay true to their core. One mustn’t forget that the illegal war in Iraq, as well as the current issues with deregulation within the financial sector are both the fault of the Labour Party.
I think that this trend of disdain towards Tory voters is actually dangerous. And dangerous most of all to those Labour voters especially who fuel it. One of the most crucial elements of development is being exposed to different opinions. Learning is a constant process of influence, every conversation you have shapes you as a person in some way or another and you are constantly growing whether for better or worse. Thus, it is important to be exposed to different opinions and more importantly have your own opinion challenged. This means that when someone says, ‘No Tories thanks’ on their Instagram bio, they are doing themselves a disfavour; in the way that they are committing themselves into a ‘safe space’ where being challenged doesn’t have to be a reality.
Of course this creates a greater issue because people hanging out with people whom all share identical political opinions creates a false illusion that those opinions are necessarily true. But, worse still, they become lazy if never challenged. This applies to those Tory voters as well of course, who act the same way towards Labour voters, but somehow I feel it is less likely given the current nature of youth culture (less than a third of young people voted Tory in June). Discarding a whole demographic of the political spectrum because they vote for ‘the other side’ seems bizarre. Particularly so, when you consider the alternative evidence that repeatedly shows a trend for UK young people being much more tolerant than older people. According to NatCen’s British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, only 25% of millennials (born after 1980s) would describe themselves as racially prejudice, compared with that of Generation X and baby boomers (born in 60s and 70s) who reported greater levels of prejudiced at 30% and 34%. If this is the case, and young people are okay about race, sexuality, religion etc. Why is this sort of intolerance about politics surfacing? I also find it slightly ironic that a lot of these people pride themselves most highly for their ability to be inclusive and open-minded. It is not as if Conservatives are total extremists. They have been in power more times than any other party; they hold a legitimate platform in UK politics.
This really isn’t an attempt to sympathise or even condone what I feel the Conservative government has done to this country in the last few years. Tuition fees tripled while tax cuts were seen for the rich, inequality continues to rise while disability benefits scrapped, the housing crisis means that owning a house as a young person is no longer a reality, the NHS is at breaking point and considerably under funded, while Brexit has put the UK at its most unstable position in recent history. I do not agree with the Tory way and I can see why only 27% of young people did agree, it isn’t very appealing.
But when I meet someone for the first time, and the topic of politics comes about; I like to think that if they had voted Tory, then we can discuss why that is the case and not for me to just disregard them because I assume they’ll be stuck up or spoilt, or misinformed. Don’t get me wrong, I may hate the guy, I may find him misinformed, spoilt and stuck up; but it is possible that I may not. Some good, intelligent, compassionate friends of mine voted Tory in June, and I don’t think they’re pricks because of it. I’m a bit annoyed with myself that I didn’t manage to get them to see my side on things and am saddened that they genuinely think that the Tories are the better option, but I still like them. Some Tories sincerely do wish for a lean state/lower taxes/deregulation and believe (against the evidence) in trickle-down economics and this is worth debating. Surely as an active member of democracy, you would engage and try and persuade them to see your line of thinking, rather than just discarding their opinions entirely.
This heavily ties in with the rise of ‘no-platforming’ within universities, which has seen students clump together in order to create ‘safe spaces’ where they can vet courses and syllabuses deemed too offensive, disrespectful, or discomforting. Something that many argue is at a hindrance to those students’ education, because it can be helpful to be put at discomfort sometimes. Debate is one of life’s greatest gifts, clashing ideas and changing opinions is so crucial in this world because it stimulates progression, and it seems to be a shame to allow ourselves to only huddle with those who only see what we see.
I think an interesting exercise, which helps exaggerate my point, is to flip all these circumstances on their head. What would it look like if a young Tory put on their Facebook, ‘f**k labour scum’, ‘no lefties please x’, ‘no labour voters on my profile please’? It would be condemned as disgusting behaviour. It is always worth looking at things from the opposing side, because it shines light on the true legitimacy of your opinion. So lets try and be a bit more tolerant of other people’s political standpoints and instead of shunning, lets engage and try and change opinions in order for society to move forward. That doesn’t mean that you have to go out and befriend someone who disagrees with you necessarily, it is nice to agree too, but be open to the possibility. Keep an open mind about people you may meet and discuss politics with them if you are both interested, but don’t be disgusted if they don’t agree with you, see it as a challenge.
(Image courtesy of the BBC)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]