Is it OK to be mean to Tories?

It seems Tories are a bit upset. Initially, this comes as a bit of a surprise. They just won an election against all the odds, didn’t they? Shouldn’t they be over the moon?

 The Left, it seems, has not taken defeat well. Not only have thousands of anti-austerity protesters gathered in Downing Street, but #ToriesOutNow is still going strong, and #LowerThanVermin appears to have gained pace as a descriptor for those who subscribe to the conservative ideology (though, admittedly, the top results on Twitter are mostly Conservatives complaining about it).

The cry comes from the Right – as it does so often – that people are making politics too personal. It’s all very well to disagree with us politically, say the Tories, but this kind of personal attack is unwarranted. Labour supporters should stop being such sore losers.

The vilification of Conservative voters on social media has often been put down to the prevalence of ‘shy Tories’. Apparently, these mild-mannered and retiring fans of fiscal austerity are also the reason the polls were so wrong. While it seems clear that anyone who is ashamed to reveal their political views should probably indulge in some self-examination, shy Tories probably are made shyer by the rudeness of their peers.

Why is it that this kind of vitriol only seems to flow one way? Conservative voters have argued – almost definitely correctly – that if Labour had won the election, the reverse situation would not have taken hold. So is there something inherently nasty about left wing politics?

The nature of the election campaign we’ve just seen, in which Miliband was accused of planning to stab his country in the back, and was the victim of a relentless media campaign which bordered on the anti-Semitic in its ruthless, Murdoch-inspired zeal to keep him out of government, would suggest the opposite.

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The reason is more obvious than that.

If you’re a Conservative voter, you probably believe that Labour, had they got into power, would have wrecked the economy. They did it before, they’ll do it again. Don’t let Ed Balls near the budget. We know the arguments by now.

If you’re a Labour voter, on the other hand, or at least a left-wing anti-Tory voter (it seems we can’t all get together these days), you probably believe that the cuts the Tories plan to implement will cause death.

It’s been a hard five years for many people, not least for author Paul Reekie, who killed himself after his incapacity and housing benefits were stopped; not least for unemployed dad Richard Sanderson, who took his own life when housing benefit cuts left him and his family homeless; not least for diabetic former soldier David Clapson, who failed to turn up to two job centre interviews, had his benefits removed for a month, and died two weeks later when his insulin couldn’t be refrigerated.

Is it surprising that those who fear that they or their loved ones might be next are angry, and blame personally those members of the electorate who have empowered the Conservative Party to continue this deadly program of ideological austerity?

But there is a wider point to be made here. The Labour Party has yet again failed, while running a traditional left-wing campaign, to achieve electoral success. While it is understandable and justifiable for people who are threatened by the Conservatives to feel anger, the general hatred felt by the Left towards the Conservatives has been proven to be unproductive.

Hurling insults at the large proportion of the population who voted for five more years of Conservative government is not the way to try and understand why they did so, and ensure that they don’t do so again. So perhaps it is the responsibility of those for whom this is a priority to focus on connecting with Tory voters, empathising with Tory voters, and perhaps even making the first steps towards turning Labour into the grassroots campaign it needs to be if it is to represent properly the people of this country.

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It is wrong to tell oppressed groups how to react to their oppression, so if you or someone you know will suffer at the hands of David Cameron and Iain Duncan-Smith, I will be the last person to tell you how to react.

But if you’re like me – privileged and middle-class – maybe you should take a step back and recognise that people who voted Tory don’t actually want unemployed people to kill themselves or disabled people to die from lack of welfare. There is a whole host of complicated reasons why 36.9 per cent of voters voted Conservative, and if we find out what they are, maybe next time we can change their minds.