Still via YouTube / The Telegraph
The annual Conservative Party conference in Manchester was terrifying. Islamophobia and misogyny ran rife, leading to the Muslim NUS President pulling out of the conference. From fringe events where Islamophobia was denied and ridiculed to an event where Tory MP Phillip Davies said that his party has “flaky, pretend socialist” MPs who are “chosen simply because of their gender and the colour of their skin”, the conference has been an all-round horror show.
However, what’s caught a lot of public scrutiny and ridicule has been a video created and published by The Telegraph, who filmed three young, white Conservative Party members talking about the abuse they’ve received for being young Tories. Watching it, I couldn’t help but feel dismayed at their self-victimisation. It feels like a parody of video formats where minorities talk about their experiences with their identities and discrimination on camera. This has been a narrative building for years: in 2012 Petronella Wyatt wrote in the same publication that she was “bullied out of Oxford for being a Tory”. And beyond that, it almost makes sense that young Tories would use the language of identity politics they’ve basically grown up with, with no irony.
Now let’s be clear here, young Tories may be few in number but they are not an oppressed group. Neither did the video seek to include anyone from a minority background. Instead, the video attempted to create a new maligned community: well-meaning white youth who are “targeted” simply for being Tories. “I’ve also been told that I’m racist,” says one young Tory in the video. Then another bemused woman says that she’s “been accused of being a traitor to my gender”.
While some of the insults are undoubtedly nasty – no one should ever be told to kill themselves, for example – young Conservatives are not victims of oppression just by being unpopular in left-wing circles. It’s astonishing to see the way in which the narrative is framed by The Telegraph; their framing equates “Tory scum” or “bastard” with serious slurs. These three young Tories have suffered abuse and are sharing it, yes, but unlike minorities, the abuse that young Conservatives receive isn’t systematic. It’s not organised. It’s not institutional. They do not have to fear their education or career prospects being harmed, they do not have to fear being targeted by their own party’s policies which disproportionately harm minorities. While black and Asian women are being hit harder by austerity, young white Tories do not have to fear for their wellbeing in the same way.
The video paints young Tories as a minority voice, and this couldn’t be more untrue. When your party is the majority party in parliament and has been in power for almost a decade, your views aren’t underrepresented. The Telegraph are the same publication with a history of racist cartoons. They published Boris Johnson’s column comparing Muslim women to “bank robbers” and “letterboxes”. Alongside this, the Conservatives have a long history of institutional racism, homophobia, and islamophobia. Victimising voices which choose to support such a party really is unsurprising for a right-wing broadsheet to do.
“Young Conservatives made a choice to join the party. They choose their politics. Black and Asian women don’t choose to be disproportionately impacted by austerity, or unchecked institutionalised racism”
Check your privilege young Tories. When you continue to remain a member of a party, vote for it, and support it, you continue to legitimise its actions and policies. Spare a thought for those who have fallen victim to the hostile environment, which saw black British citizens deported, denied healthcare, housing, benefits, and more. Or the 130,000 extra deaths linked to austerity. Try facing the DWP as a disabled person who has been told by their doctors they are unable to work yet are declared fit. Your party institutionalised Islamophobia. Horrifying statistics found that 79% of members are in-denial to it, 40% of members think that there should be a reduction on Muslims entering the UK, 45% of members wouldn’t want a Muslim PM. That is the systematic and institutional oppression of minority groups.
Young Conservatives made a choice to join the party. They choose their politics. Black and Asian women don’t choose to be disproportionately impacted by austerity, or unchecked institutionalised racism. Muslim women don’t choose to be abused on the streets of Britain simply because our prime minister wants to continuously appease the far-right. In a post-referendum climate, immigrants and people of colour don’t choose to see hate crimes increase on themselves. Disabled people don’t choose to have their benefits cut. And that is the difference. Minorities can’t leave their identity at their local political event, these young Tories can. And that’s privilege.
There is a lot of abuse in politics. Diane Abbott, the first black woman to become an MP, receives more abuse than any other woman in British politics. The rise of the far-right has seen a major spike of abuse in politics. Inspired by far-right rhetoric, this abuse has spiralled inspiring hate crimes nationwide, the death of Labour MP Jo Cox, and online hate speech. So, while it’s a shame that young Tories are criticised for their beliefs, the majority of abuse and injustice is not faced by them.