The idea that resorting to abuse in order to try and win any sort of political debate is something I first touched upon a few months back when I first wrote of my intention to cease supporting the Conservative Party and to join the Liberal Democrats. Following various events in the past few weeks, I feel compelled to bring it up again.
Recently, both the EU Referendum and the Labour leadership contest have bought out the worst in British politics, with the battle for Labour leader bringing about vile abuse of Labour MPs and commentators, peaking with Angela Eagle’s constituency office being bricked; meanwhile the EU Referendum consisted of an array of nastiness from both sides, culminating in the tragic death of Jo Cox. It is easy to condemn these events and move on without stopping to consider the role we have all played in the build up of this poisonous political climate, but if we are to ever truly move away from this, to a period of “kinder” politics, we must take a long hard look at ourselves.
The kinder politics that I speak of is not that of Jeremy Corbyn’s, where essentially anything said or done by his friends and supporters goes (be it anti-Semitism, misogyny, etc.), but if you dare insult his dress sense then there should be cause for national outcry, but a politics that relies strictly upon ridicule of policy when debated, rather than being based upon pre-conceived prejudices one might hold against particular parties, persons, or campaigns. We are all guilty of this to some extent; whilst we condemn the actions of the far-right and far-left’s campaigns of hate, we continue to casually call the Tories “nasty” and “evil”, or Brexiteers “stupid” and “ill-informed”, without seemingly realising that we are only adding to the toxic cloud in which our politics currently takes place.
My main gripe with this, along with it being completely unnecessary, is that in many ways it is self-defeating. As a former Conservative voter and supporter, I can tell you first hand that nothing made me feel less welcome in any party than its supporters vilifying me as “Tory scum”, or indeed any other variation of abuse to that extent. Making people feel unwanted elsewhere is a sure way of making certain that they continue to support the party you so ridicule them for doing so; the reason I left the Conservatives was because their vision of Britain began to look very different to my own, not because I was guilt tripped into it by a passively aggressive social media user. Indeed, when I now see fellow members of my new party the Lib Dems partake in Tory name calling I feel disheartened, as I know the damage it is doing in the minds of people who could well be realistic target voters. To me pointing out the flaws in opponents policy is a far greater political weapon than trying to dumb down the debate into “your party is more morally bankrupt than my party”, and to that extent its worth remembering at the same time that in spite of popular belief, MPs and governments try to operate in a way that they see best for the country, rather than themselves. If they were motivated only by self-interest then they would not be in politics at all, as there are far greater riches to be found elsewhere. Not only is abuse of each other uncalled for, but also is the abuse of MPs, who deserve no more hatred thrown at them for doing their jobs than you or I do, especially as they try to do them in a way they believe to be in our best interests, even if we do not happen to agree with them on everything they have to say. By abusing MPs, we only make the job less desirable to both MPs themselves and to onlookers, meaning that in the future we may find ourselves in a situation where we lack great politicians, as so many have been turned off the idea of getting into politics by the amount of abuse they are likely to receive.
Therefore to conclude, let us now think twice before we fire off our next abusive tweet to our local MP because they don’t back Jeremy Corbyn, or ridicule a Remainer because they “lost” and should “get over it”. It’s not a good look, it only does our causes harm, and it defies the objective of making our country a better place, which everyone, regardless of their place on the political spectrum, should be fighting for.
Follow Andy on Twitter: @Briggs_AndyJ