Left Wing Values of Tolerance Should Extend to Conservative Voters

I didn’t vote for Labour on Thursday. Why I didn’t would require far too long an explanation for this article and was the result of weeks of internal debate when deciding who to vote for. Irrespective of this, I consider myself to hold many traditional Labour values. I believe in a meritocratic society that should strive to make sure all children have equal opportunities for success, whatever the socio-economic class they were born into. I believe that the rich should contribute more to society in order to help those not as fortunate as themselves.

I also believe in tolerance. I believe in being tolerant of people whatever their circumstances, their demographic group or their beliefs. The word ‘beliefs’ denotes several things. It means our religious beliefs, our moral beliefs and also our political beliefs. Every single day around the world people suffer under regimes that deny them a political voice and a right to differing opinions. I cannot imagine living in a society where I couldn’t freely tweet my reaction to social and political events. The result of such a privilege is that this country is home to over 60 million people all with a voice, and it is therefore quite conceivable that all 60 million voices will not be unanimous. The brilliant thing about our democracy is that it nurtures all these differing opinions. Just as we can have differing sexualities or differing religions, we can also have differing political ideologies. It makes our society richer in a wealth of culture and lifestyle.

So what I cannot fathom is the reaction against Conservative voters on social media during this election. This is not to say that every person on my Twitter or Facebook feed that registers as left of centre has espoused Conservative-hating ideas, and not all statements have been of the same level of intensity. Many have been rational arguments for why they oppose the Conservative Party; just as you could equally see well-considered opinions by those right-of-centre who would not vote for the Labour Party. I may not agree with such sentiments, but I would like to think that I am cool-headed enough to at least comprehend the logic behind them.

However, what has equally been present online is statements of inflamed rhetoric which I actually find incredibly sad. Statements labelling Conservative voters as ‘f**king scum’ and ‘vermin c**ts’ are not easy to miss and they strike me as very ironic. Left wing voters may not agree with Conservative policies, they may consider them to be extremely detrimental to our society, but just as people on the left have their opinion on how a society should be, so do those on the right. It is not even a simple case of ‘right’ or left’, we have a political spectrum for a reason.

My idea of how the Labour Party should proceed now, I don’t doubt, is very different to somebody else left of centre. My idea about how the economy should be approached or whether we should have an EU referendum or not is probably very different to somebody else left of centre. This concept can equally be applied to Conservative voters. Is it not a well-known fact that one of the biggest struggles the Conservative Party has had to tackle over the last two decades is their internal split? Some members of the Conservative Party wanted the legalisation of gay marriage whilst others did not, just as some think the EU nurtures economic prosperity for our country, whilst others want to leave and regain total sovereignty.

To label every Conservative-voting member of the population as ‘f***king scum’ is to make a sweeping generalisation about the type of person they are, which is just as reprehensible as it would be to label every immigrant to this country a ‘benefit-scrounger’: it is simply ill-informed and prejudiced. 11,334,920 people voted for the Conservative party on Thursday and I think it’s fair to say odds are that many of those would have been from ordinary families, just like those who voted Labour. They are not evil, bigoted capitalists that want the poor to suffer, they are typical working people who just might have a slightly different idea about how the economy should be run or how immigration should be addressed than you or I. And that’s okay. That’s what democracy and political freedom is about.

I don’t doubt that I would be able to find many people who voted Conservative with ideologies that I would find abhorrent. I’m not saying we don’t have the right to criticise other parties or opinions and I’m not saying there isn’t extremism that shouldn’t be called out for what it is; this article isn’t to be applied to parties like UKIP. Maybe the next five years will see the introduction of some terrible policies that make me very angry and yearn for an end to the Conservative government; but equally I cannot forget yearning for the end of the Labour government in 2010. Just as Conservative MP for Putney Justine Greening sacrificed her role as Minister for Transport through opposition to a third runway at Heathrow because her constituents didn’t want it, in 2009 Harriet Harman tried to change the rules of MP’s expenses under the Freedom of Information Act, which would stop the public and the press knowing what expenses their MP had claimed. My point is there’s good and bad in both parties. You might think there is worse in one party, but somebody else probably thinks there is worse in the other. That’s the great thing about democracy and political freedom:we can have those different beliefs. Which leads me to wonder, how can some claiming ‘tolerance’ for the Left be so intolerant themselves?

By Nici Frost

[Image Credit: Catholic Church England]

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3 thoughts on “Left Wing Values of Tolerance Should Extend to Conservative Voters

  1. Pingback: Why the Anti-Tory backlash is fine, in any form. | An Even Angrier Voice

  2. I was agreeing with your every sentence. I was behind you all the way. I thought the way you presented your arguments was delightful to read, and I was investing in your free-thinking approach.

    But then you fucked it.

    What is the point in celebrating our democracy, our diversity of beliefs and convictions, and our liberty to declare our politics, only to call Ukip ‘extreme’ and excluded from the sentiments in your article? That’s quasi-democracy. That’s democracy qualified. That’s taking up the position which you spent hundreds of words challenging.

    • Hi Jamie, I completely understand your point and agree with it to a certain extent. My exclusion of UKIP troubled me but there was a reason for it; I’m not necessarily saying that my argument doesn’t apply to UKIP, but my article doesn’t.
      Here’s why: to justify the tolerance of UKIP would require a far more extensive analysis than the word count this post would allow, in fact I think it would need an entire article of it’s own. The reason for this is because, whilst UKIP has it’s own ideological spectrum of voters, just as I argue the two main parties do, it is undeniably set further to the right and thus as a result is inclusive of, although not totally comprising of, extremist views. This would therefore need an entirely separate debate.
      The point of my post wasn’t to argue for unconditional tolerance of all political views just because we are a democracy, because that would require a deeper exploration of the conditions of tolerance, ‘where do we draw the line?’ and a justification of it’s characteristics. My post instead is a more general comment to be applied to Conservative voters because my experience of social media has been a presentation of Conservative voters as right-wing extremists which is fundamentally untrue. I come from a town which has elected a Conservative MP in every general election since 1906 so I can confidently say that most Conservative voters are not ultra-capitalists but people are just from normal working families, who identify, not as the extremists they have been portrayed to be, but in many cases only marginally right of the centre.
      Clearly, it is not so clear-cut with UKIP voters and not directly comparable with Conservative voters. I’m not saying that all 3.9 million UKIP voters are extremist by any stretch of the imagination. I think UKIP has served a very interesting ‘protest’ function regarding things such as immigration and the EU which many non-extremist people are concerned with, and it has served to bring such concerns to the attention of the major parties- which is exactly how democracy should work. However, there is still an undeniable extremist element to be found within the party that complicates matters and that is why it would require a separate post. I’m not dismissing it from my argument, but it requires deeper analysis and that is why I excluded it from the article.
      I know this probably isn’t a satisfactory response, and like I said, I understand your point completely, I just hope you can slightly infer what I’m trying, and probably failing, to explain 🙂

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