No, I’m sorry, we can’t all just ‘be nice’ about politics

Elsa Maishman 10 May 2015

In his article for The Tab, Ted Loveday claims that the Tories are "ordinary people like you and me". As a reader of the article, I am one of the many who can be generalised as ‘you’. I accept that there is increased similarity between the left and right, but I know for a fact that the Tories are quite different to me. I care about the NHS, the Human Rights Act, equality in education, public services, legal aid, housing, staying in the EU, and climate change (pretty much everything that everyone should care about). The Tories are in a different world to me when it comes to these issues.

They may say they care about securing a ‘better and brighter future’ for the UK, but the way in which they aim to reduce the deficit is so damaging that it renders it a futile effort. What Loveday labels as ‘rants’ clogging up his news feeds, I would label as expression of opinion, fear and disappointment.

There is a palpable apprehension about what Cameron will do now that he has a majority and there is no coalition to stop him. His policies have seriously affected people’s lives and standard of living – take the rise in reliance on food banks for example. Expressions of disagreement using hyperbolic language do not dehumanise the Conservatives, instead they indicate a genuine worry and anxiety. Whilst mourning over the result will not change anything, people are reacting so strongly because they care, and they the right to express their disappointment.

Loveday's six "basic suggestions" in themselves are patronising. According to him, calling the British electorate ignorant or ill-informed is condescending – but I wonder where he got the authority to tell people how they should be reacting to the election results.

This patronising stance is extended as Loveday claims that Cambridge students are out of touch. I’m not sure about you, but every conversation I had on Friday morning made me realise how politically active everyone here was regardless of their feelings about the result. Surely listening to the reactions of the disheartened is part of ‘showing a bit more empathy’ for those with differing views.

It is absurd to suggest that most individual voters have made an uninfluenced decision. The media holds enormous influence over the populace and this is especially important come election time.

Social media forms an echo chamber, and I agree that some left-wing posts patronise Conservative voters, suggesting an element of ignorance. But I can assure you that this condescension is not just from those who ‘lost’ the election. Many Tory supporters were gloating as if it were some kind of football match that they had won. By suggesting that we need to show respect is to imply that it is some sort of competition, and that Tory voters should be relieved as if their favourite team has won the final. It is even questionable as to how far the SNP should be happy about their wins too, considering the ideologically different PM. This is what belittles the importance and complex nature of politics, reducing it to personal gains.

I understand Loveday’s suggestion that we need to have respect for whoever has won the election because we live in a democracy, and this is what the people have voted for. But his framing of the statistics are flawed and misleading. Using ‘population’ and ‘electorate’ as synonyms suggests that a third of the British population voted Conservative. However, it was only 37% of those who actually voted, out of those even eligible to vote, equating to only around 11 million. This, and the disparity between votes and seats, further adds to people’s disappointment with the outcome.

It is natural for people to feel upset and disappointed when the outcome is not who they voted for. This isn't a finale where all non-Tory voters should congratulate Tory supporters, say 'good game' and ‘just be nice’. Disagreement and debate does not end here – people have the right to be disheartened, and fearful of how their lives might change in the future. This country is much better off with increased youth engagement in politics – why put them down?