By Malick Nythern Doucoure,
I am sick to death of the distasteful insults and death threats emanating from all – (yes, the right is just as guilty of this as the left) – sides of politics. But I’m also sick of having to explain why voting Tory CAN come across as controversial, for some.
To Tackle Hate and Abuse, first we must understand it.
Looking back at the Conservatives’ history, this was the party of the famous “If you desire a COLOURED for your neighbour, vote Labour. If you are already ‘BURDONED’ with one, Vote Tory” posters in the West Midlands constituency of Smethwick during the 60s. Sure, this was quite a while ago but let’s not forget that the Conservatives’ beloved Margaret Thatcher REFUSED to condemn and support sanctions against an apartheid regime that tortured and gunned innocent children in their own homes.
Even Her Majesty the Queen was ‘enraged’ by Thatcher’s actions (or lack thereof). You could again, argue that this was a Conservative party of a different time but when Young Conservatives today praise Thatcher and hold her in high regards, one must ask if they’ve taken her apparent racism into account.
As with Ms Harris’s article, my arguments are based on purely anecdotal and personal experiences, so it would be unfair to extrapolate and suggest all Tories hold a favourable view on Thatcher despite her actions, just as it is unfair for suggest that everyone among the left is guilty of the abuse Tories face. However, a Guardian ICM Poll taken shortly after Thatcher’s unfortunate passing showed that at least 50% of Brits supported her and her rule. This suggests that while her opinions may be outdated, her politics are still present in today’s day and age, which of course, is of a cause for concern for anybody who holds staunchly anti-apartheid views.
All of this doesn’t legitimise or justify anti-conservative abuse. If we are to tackle the abuse, as I assume Ms Harris would agree in doing, we must first try to understand it and address the issues that cause it.
Abuse towards the right is bad, but abuse towards the left is even worse – this is statistically proven.
My main issue and point of critique of Ms Harris’s article is the lack of a nuanced, balanced approach to examining the issue of abuse in politics. I can assure her that political abuse is not an issue of one way traffic, and I make this statement with statistical and empirical data, not just personal experiences and anecdotes.
According to the New Statesman, out of 25,688 abusive tweets sent to female MPs during election season, almost half of them alone were sent to Diane Abbott, a well-known left wing politician.
I believe I am rightfully in speaking on behalf of Ms Abbott when suggesting literal death threats, vile and repugnant racism and utter misogyny are a thousand times worse than the political and campaign insults Ms Harris faced. I don’t mean to detract from the abuse the latter received, but rather highlight and empathise the literal death threats that women – especially women of colour – on the left are receiving.
To illustrate the statistical disproportion in abuse among the left/right, this graph formed from an analysis of over 900,000 political tweets sent out between January 1st and June 8th of 2017 shows that Diane Abbott received more than double the amount of abuse than the entire Conservative Party combined.
This should’ve been mentioned in Ms Harris’s article in order to provide a balanced, fair and non-biased illustration of the issue of abuse in politics. I personally find those guilty of political abuse to be distasteful and counter-productive towards achieving the political feat of bipartisanship. I also take issue with articles and opinion pieces that fail to provide a fair analysis of an issue and “don’t look at both sides of a coin”. Abuse against Tories is awful but, to not even acknowledge the even greater abuse faced by those on the left, is a great injustice of its own.
Anecdotes, Anecdotes, Anecdotes!
This is a point I’ve already made, but must repeat in order to empathise its importance, especially in the realm of politics. When budget cuts are debated, when projects are deliberated on and extensions are discussed, anecdotes are never used to form the basis of any political argument. The role of pure facts and statistics in politics cannot be understated; they’re one of many reasons why political committees and fact-finding groups exist!
Thus, with all due respect, a brief look at the actual facts would suggest that while Ms Harris’s personal experiences and anecdotes are perfectly valid (and it is absolutely unfortunate and saddening that people would do such awful things), things are actually far, far worse for non-conservatives in society. To suggest that she faces “visceral hatred for Tories made worse by those in positions of power and influence”, suggests that she is a fact less distortion of reality that I can’t help but unwholly criticise. One Labour MP declaring she has ‘absolutely no intention of being friends’ with conservatives cannot and should never be compared to the actual visceral hatred exerted by those in positions of power and influence in the world.
When a person of colour is unfairly stereotyped and treated with brutal force by a police officer (a person in a position of power), this is an issue.
When a member of the LGBTQI+ community is fired from their job by their boss (a person in a position of power) for marrying the love of their life, this is an issue.
When a woman is expected by society (could be a husband, father, or simply societal expectations acting in a position of power) to give up on her career – along with the 5+ years she spent studying hard at university – to have kids and raise a family, this is an issue.
Therefore while a Labour MP saying she doesn’t want to be friends with Tories is unfortunate, using diction and terminology such as ‘visceral hatred’ and ‘position of power and influence’ to describe, this falls short of an insult to the actual hatred and the actual abuse of positions of power that ethnic, sexual and gender minorities face in the world. This, is my biggest issue and criticism of Ms Harris’s article.
All in all, I hope my critique doesn’t leave anybody thinking we should ignore the abuse that Tories face. I am someone who was admittedly guilty of having taken part in electoral ‘saltiness’, but I am also a victim of the same political insults that Ms Harris faced. Abuse in politics is awful, unnecessary and outright unacceptable. However, not acknowledging the abuse (which happens to be on a far greater scale) that the opposing side also faces, is counter-productive and does nothing towards tackling the issue of political abuse.
I believe Ms Harris and I can agree in suggesting we need a united politics, one where we look at what we have in common rather than our divisions, a world where the left and the right are two equally balancing wings of the same bird. To achieve this political utopia we must start by fairly analysing and criticising issues that affect not just one side, but rather both sides.