Can we all be nice about politics for once?

Tories aren’t so different from you and me

be happy election loveday peace out tab cambridge tories

I get that lots of us people want to rant about a Conservative majority government.

I get that we’re all pretty concerned about the impact of more spending cuts, the fate of the Human Rights Act, the Union and our place in Europe.

Loads of people across the country are ranting about these things, scribbling tweets and snapping chats, arguing about legal aid cuts with their mates in the pub.

But, when I logged onto social media on Friday morning, my news feeds were crammed with a much weirder, nastier version of these rants. For today’s self-proclaimed student radicals, the important thing to rant about is the voters themselves.

I’m sure you’ll all have seen posts like this.

Ultimately, these sort of things reveal more about you than they do about your politics. Saying that the British public is stupid or ignorant or evil is nothing more than a form of out-of-touch snobbery.

It’s quite right to be passionate about your beliefs. But I’ve always found the most impressive politicians to be the ones who can show respect to their opponents – even when they fiercely disagree.

And the least impressive are the ones who dehumanise or demonise their enemies – and dismiss their opinions as irrational, misinformed and not even worth considering.

Actually, the rest of England isn't just full of white men in black tie.

Actually, the rest of England isn’t just full of white men in black tie.

With that in mind, a few basic suggestions to bear in mind before you express opinions about the election:

  1. 37% of the population have voted for Conservative candidates. This is called democracy.
  1. Most of those voters are not “the rich” or “the 1%”. They’re not white public schoolboys from the South East. They are ordinary people like you and me, from all backgrounds and genders and all parts of the UK.
  1. Some of them even belong to “oppressed groups” – low-earners, unemployed people, disabled people, women, ethnic minorities, LGBT people. And, surprise, surprise – loads of quiet working-class Tory voters exist. (Don’t worry. If you missed this, have no fear – so did all the pollsters.)
  1. Most of those voters are not “ignorant”, “stupid” or “selfish”. They have thought carefully before making their decision. Like you and me, they are capable of making their own minds up, without taking their opinions from Rupert Murdoch.
  1. Conservative voters and politicians care as much as anybody else about improving the lot of the weak, marginal and oppressed. Feel free to say they’ve picked a disastrously wrong way of doing this. But if you set them up as Bond Villains or Darth Vader, you’re attacking a straw man.
Exhibit A: a Tory focus group.

Exhibit A: a Tory focus group.

  1. Conservatives are not evil. You might think they’re wrong and misguided – but they are not literally evil. People become Tory activists because they want to make the country a better place. Many Tories – just like Liberal, Labour and Green supporters – give hundreds of hours of their time and money to helping others.

Politics is a serious business. And that’s precisely why we need to wake up to what’s actually going on beyond our comfortable student bubble.

37% of the population have taken a considered decision that the Conservatives will make this country a better place. We can’t simply dismiss them all as evil or stupid.

We need to resist the temptation to trivialise politics into a battle between black and white, good and evil. Most political issues are complex and don’t have any easy answers.

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The 1%. And their sausage dog.

Like most of you, I am anxious about about what this election means for our welfare state, our civil liberties and human rights, our position in the EU.

But we can argue the case for these things without making sweepingly patronising remarks about one in three of our fellow Brits.

Speaking to people on Friday morning, I’m starting to worry about how out-of-touch Cambridge students are becoming. My tip to those of you thinking of going into politics: get out of your ivory tower and have some respect for ordinary people.

The country will be a lot better if we all start showing a bit more empathy for people with different views from ourselves.

The Cambridge election results bucked the national trend; find them here.

Disagree with Ted? Find Jon Cooper’s response here.