Stop demonising students for voting Tory

Hate the policies, not the people

If you don’t hate the Tories, are you even a student at all?

Ask an average member of the public what they think we do, and ‘whining about the government’ will rank just below ‘drinking’ and ‘not studying’.

So deeply ingrained is this hatred that I feel my request is impossible but I’ll make it anyway: put away the bitter, demonising language, and deal with the Tories as the rational humans they are.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be voting for them. I’m a wishy-washy Liberal Democrat, I voted Remain, and I still feel disillusioned with Brexit.

But I do sense a self-defeating destructiveness in Tory-hating moral outrage.

For many, the prospect of a hard Brexit coupled with five years of Conservative government under an unprincipled Prime Minister is just too much to bear.

So where to turn, but Angry Reacts and ‘Sad!’ tweets? The guilty pleasure of comment wars; roasting Theresa May’s leopard heels; unfriending UKIP supporters.

The deed is done: a feeling of moral satisfaction is easy to come by on social media.

The problem is that it doesn’t just stay online. Simple acts build up and they feed into bitter personal resentment. We lose our tempers quicker. The temptation to dismiss Tories as demons grows.

This stuff matters. If we cannot tackle real issues without blowing into a rage and dismissing countering opinion as bigoted, we have not only lost the argument, but we have lost the ability to effect positive change. Winning is out of the window.

If you feel oppressed by the Tory government, vote for the Opposition. Campaign for the Opposition. Make it clear which policies harm you (and others) – but what good will possibly come from responding to the Conservatives’ exercise of political power with pure emotional hatred?

I don’t know, but I can hint at some of the bad.

First, you’ll still be stuck with a Tory government. The chances of Theresa May losing the snap election are surely miniscule. She is a selfish politician, and she has called it because she’s confident she’ll win.

The only hope to genuinely change that outcome requires a stepping down from the principled pedestal of nose-in-the-air dismissal, and engagement through reasoned debate and democratic opposition.

Second, others will be repelled by your beliefs. If you spew only hatred, opponents and undecideds will stop listening. When was the last time you were convinced by someone insulting you? Mobilising resentment will only strengthen their convictions.

Lastly, it makes us less nice as individuals. The nastier you act, the nastier you become. Need I really ask if there is hypocrisy in opposing a ‘nasty’ Tory government with a toxic tone?

I would suggest a universal good in kindness and respect. Kindness in argument may seem irrelevant. But while you may not be able to control a particular Tory policy, you can control your response to the person – and, I hope, will feel better in the longer term if it is a kind one.

Our government may put principles aside for the sake of power and pragmatism. But they are still human.

Hate the Tories if you like. But don’t expect your hatred to make you tolerant and kind, win support for your cause, or topple their hold on power.

“Rather perish than hate and fear”, wrote Nietzsche, “and twice rather perish than make oneself hated and feared.” It seems to me that, in demonising the Tories, we do both.

Durham University