The secret life of a Tory at Cambridge
Investigative journalism from a nosy leftie
Right, so when I came to Cambridge there were lots of things I didn't expect, and that includes the political leanings of my peers. Being from the south east even in a sixth form class I was known as the 'token leftie' and although I didn't expect it to be quite that bad here I wasn't quite prepared for the red party I was walking into. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy being able to say what I think with no-one, despite that one Marxist, disagreeing and it is nice to be overwhelmingly surrounded with similarly minded people. My mum even commented that for me it should be 'paradise.'
BUT, it doesn't really sit with me right. After all, a large proportion of the current Tory government are ex-Cambridge and it seems hard for me to believe that although it's portrayed as such, that you don't generally get much righter than Gordon Brown around here. It's unclear to me here if there generally aren't very many Tory voters or if they're all too scared to say anything and therefore are #closettories. To be honest, being a Tory is a bit of an identifier in Cam, for example upon asking one friend at Kings if he knew another one of my friends there he curiously asked 'yeah, but isn't he a Tory?'
Now, I admit I'm not the perfect all inclusive left wing voter I should be, I've made my fair share of jovial digs at the Tory party and occasionally their members but, shoot me, I just find it a bit weird they aren't particularly prominent around here when I feel like they definitely exist. And in a weird way I kinda wish they were, if anything because over Michaelmas term I forgot lots of my comebacks to use against the frequent leftie bashing I get at home. No, in all honesty, debate is important and as much as I don't agree with them we need right wing views to keep debate open minded and varied. It's all too easy to believe the world is full of people who pretty much agree with you when that's all you're surrounded by at university.
Having come to this conclusion, I decided to channel my inner Louis Theroux and started to ask about town for Tory experiences. This initially appeared a hard task, between my friends we could name about 3 Tories in the whole college. And so, I got brave and went more Ross Kemp-level to reach outside my college to find out what being a Tory here is really like.
Overall? I heard sort of what I expected to hear.
Many of the comments I got through friends were that they didn't feel like they particularly experienced a lot of hate but that generally negative attitude towards their political views were a bit irritating. Examples include one saying that he often gets the look – the 'you want to kill poor people' look – and another saying that there was definitely once when he was talking to someone who said 'could you imagine being friends with someone and then finding out they're a Tory?'. To quote he just 'smiled and nodded along.' After I got over the feeling of guilt that I'm pretty sure I've absent-mindedly done both of those things, I had a ponder on it. Neither contributor seemed particularly shook but it kind of bothered me. Don't really know how I'd feel if the tables were turned.
Then I reached out to CUCA to try and get a more varied opinion from all different years, because otherwise the sample would have just been first years I get on with. All of them, without exception, cited some sort of negative experience due to their political leanings. A lot of it ran along the same lines as what I discovered through friends – lots of micro-aggression seems to come their way. Whether that be on the levels of 'personal criticism' that they receive in any debate about politics, a feeling of being in an 'isolated' position or even having their work turned away from a 'leading student newsletter' (I'm assuming not the Tab) for the conservative nature of their work. This also translates to online where one students said he got a lot of hate for announcing he was Tory on Facebook. I wanna be shocked but considering our own editor got a good 30 angry reacts when he liked the Conservatives page so that he could follow the general election.
Aside from the general negative attention they get, their responses also all made some sort of comment on the all-left mentality there is at Cambridge, that being the main reason they feel they get so much agg for being a bit right wing. I get where they're coming from, as I said earlier, that all left mentality is why I'm writing this. Comments include: the left often being 'deluded' to the extent it can appear 'Orwellian', that the left behave like 'petulant toddlers' to get rid of tories and that there's been a 'mob-mentality' that's been used to 'indoctrinate students.' The most cutting comment having to be that there's an 'uncivilised barbarity of a tiny minority of self-anointed HSPS studying activists' that are the main reason Cambridge as a whole is so dismissive to more right wing politics.
Now, I wouldn't have said it in their words but I kinda get what they're saying. I mean the analytical historian in me wants to say the fact they feel so strongly about it must show they do get a lot of grief. But who knows, I like to think it is a 'tiny minority' that cause so much aggro and that most conservatives experience no problems but I think it is quite obviously a bit of a university wide problem. And I'm not saying we should all turn blue but as cringey as it sounds practice a bit more peace and love towards our Tory neighbours. Why not make jokes about something inherently more funny like the inefficiencies in capitalism and communism that everyone can get involved with?