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Political opinions, and shy Tories
I look at my friends and colleagues, and see a wide variety of political opinions. I might disagree with somebody’s politics, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have good reasons for their beliefs, and it doesn’t stop me valuing them and liking them. And arguing with them.

It seems to me this is a basic requirement for living in a democracy: the acceptance that other people’s opinions are as heartfelt as one’s own, and that just because they see the world a different way, it doesn’t make them bad. I strongly believe that most people are honest and caring, even though that may be expressed in different ways.

From observation I think that many people on the right of politics look at that on the left with a little condescension, perhaps with a belief that most people grow out of left-wing politics as they assume the responsibility of life, but see them as being well-meaning if misguided.

More worrying is the intolerance of some of those on the left of politics, who use hate language to describe those on the right. This has always occurred, but is more apparent than before on social media. There is a disconnection between lefties using words like scum, evil, and fascist, and the reality of Tory voters’ concerns.

Which has to go a long way to explain the “shy Tory” factor; Tory voters are less likely than others to identify as such in opinions polls, in normal social interactions, and online. It is saner to avoid rather than engage with the intolerance and bigotry of those who fling around insults yet make no effort to understand others’ politics.

I wonder whether we will see a parallel “shy Labour” factor in Scotland, since so many anti-Labour insults have been flying around.

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My thoughts exactly. A young friend of mine who is (I think) centre-left in her politics posted a link on Facebook to an article in the Independent that said much the same thing. Almost immediately a friend of hers replied saying that she wished those "shy Tory bostards" had been too shy to leave the house on Thursday. I almost posted to say that this rather proved the point, but I didn't, because well, life's too short to get insulted by complete strangers on social media.

And that in itself proves the point.

I might make an LJ post at some point collecting together all of the funniest and most deluded posts I've seen on social media from before and after the election results. Among the choicest was the person who claimed that "of course, London is pretty solidly Labour nowadays" (which must be news to its Conservative mayor) and the seemingly widespread belief among those on the far left that Labour will do badly next time round because they'll now elect a 'Blairite' leader. I mean it's not as if the last time they had a Blairite leader they won three consecutive landslides or anything...

I’ll look forward to your LJ post…

No disagreement with your general point, but there's hate language going in both directions. It's instructional to look at the comment sections of the Daily Mail and Telegraph; and despite many headlines about wicked "Cybernats" the only quantitative study I've seen found that online supporters of independence were much more likely to be on the receiving end of abuse than handing it out. (That may be from Labour people as much as people on the right, of course.)

I think from a left-wing point of view, the vehemence is often driven by the perception that right wing policies negatively affect the vulnerable - the poor, the unemployed, the disabled - and that amounts to unfair victimisation by the powerful. Those who accept that people on the right are well-meaning have a similar condescending attitude to the one you describe above - "they're Tories, but they just don't get it, they've never been in that situation and don't understand the harm they're doing." Those with a lower tolerance threshold go for abuse.

I'm genuinely not sure what would drive a similar vehemence from the right? (I'm excluding the scary xenophobic right from this - we're talking about basically reasonable people here who cross a bit of a line into using abusive language, right?)

Sorry if I don't respond too much - busy with other things, but interesting topic.

True, the comments on newspaper websites are a cesspool of unpleasantness. But that I think is more a byproduct of giving people a (relatively) unfiltered platform that sits alongside high-profile content, rather than an expression of political argument. And I suppose it drives page views, so newspapers accept it.

More important is your comment about the perception that right-wing policies negatively affect the vulnerable, This is perhaps the crux of the issue —some people on the left can’t or won’t see that Tories also care about the vulnerable, but have very different ways of approaching the problems in society.

After all, Labour might want to provide full employment, but it is Tory policies that have driven up employment. Labour governments have repeatedly buggered the economy. One could view economic responsibility and managing the deficit as being the key areas that will help the vulnerable, together with reducing the regulatory burden on small businesses and making it easier and cheaper to employ people. You could agree with this, or not, but it is troubling that alternative viewpoints drive vehement hatred rather than understanding and reasoned disagreement.

I’m not sure what would drive similar vehemence from the right. But I think in a civilised country, where most of our politics is on a reasonably narrow range from centre-left to centre-right, we ought to be able to empathise with alternative viewpoints.

Edited at 2015-05-10 05:25 pm (UTC)

Oh, and a further thought about the online abuse of journalists, particularly those working for the BBC.

I know we’ve discussed before the institutional bias in BBC reporting, but it is telling that while Tory supporters have been complaining about BBC bias for decades without falling into name calling and hate speech, some of the recent online attacks by cybernats on BBC journalists have been rather unpleasant and personal.

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Oh, it would be nice to be in a world where politics and religions weren’t such divisive subjects. Maybe then public discourse — whether in the media or on social media — would be a better reflection of the diversity of Britain.

Within Scotland, I'd be inclined to agree with all of that - with a vicious circle resulting: statistically, I'm unlikely to have been the only one at our staff dinner last week to have voted Conservative two days earlier, but none of us said so. What seems to have gone unnoticed so far, though, is that the Lib Dems fell to just half the Conservative share: 7.5% versus 14.9%, a reversal of the 2010 positions. (Still almost a 2% fall since 2010, but a far better showing than the other two.) In fact, even the current Holyrood lineup has three times as many Conservative as Lib Dem MSPs, but campaigning activity has always seemed to give a very different impression.

I'm wondering what impact the referendum had there: SNP voters will of course have been largely in the "yes" camp, and Conservatives almost entirely "no", but I got the impression at the time a lot of Labour supporters were in the "yes" camp and felt quite betrayed by their party's campaigning - perhaps to the extent of switching allegiances.

Looking at the "shy Tory" theory, I'm surprised that the YouGov exit polls suggested a less positive outcome than the traditional exit polling - and, of course, were wrong to do so: surely you'd expect the opposite in that case.

Guido Fawkes had an interesting analysis - it wasn't a case of more "hidden" Conservative votes appearing on the day, but a lot of expected Labour ones failing to materialise:

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