It was not difficult to predict the anti-Tory onslaught on Facebook after the election results. I have been at university for six years now - and not just any university, but a university where the liberal zeitgeist is particularly harrowing. A university whose student body pride themselves on banning speakers with whom they disagree, and where being a conservative is about as socially acceptable as public defecation.
Six years ago, I anticipated the opposite scenario. I moved from a comprehensive school in Croydon to a university notorious for its aristocratic and nepotistic associations. I lived off the maximum possible bursaries and grants in order to attend, and turned up in hoodies and tracksuits every day. I spoke with a Croydon accent and had fairly lefty sympathies. I had previously made no secret of my contempt towards public schoolkids. Everything I had read led me to expect ostracism by the legions of Etonians who, in a native habitat like Oxford, spit on poor people and hang the homeless.
What really happened, of course, is that I got on just fine. No doubt there are some pockets of the university where the nobility look down on us with disgust, but they are few and far between. My conclusion that public schoolkids and conservatives were callous opponents of the poor and weak became increasingly vulnerable to plain experience and reason. I began to compare those who made a lot of noise 'on behalf of' the poor, demanding that others help them, and those who actually went down to the trenches themselves to befriend and enable the poor directly. And I found that the latter group were far more populated with conservatives than the former.
I did, of course, pay some social cost for my background. I quickly had to drop the accent since few people understood it, though my clothing remains stubborn and fiercely loyal. I have been called a 'chav' and sneered at for my clothes and my interests (no, I can't really join in your discussions about extortionate College Balls or holiday homes in southern France), but never by people who actually voted Conservative. Only by well-off people who wax lyrical on Facebook about how much Tory scum hate the poor but who would never get on their hands and knees to serve them or talk to them themselves. The type who would rather sneer at the stupidity and ignorance of those millions of poor people who voted Conservative than actually honour them as people by listening to the reasons why.
But nothing in my background made me as contemptible as my increasing recognition of the direct action conservatives take to combat poverty, or my appreciation for political nuances regarding the roots of poverty. Voting Green in my first year was far more necessary to prevent ostracism than changing the way I talk. But the more I recognised the ways conservatives address poverty, the more I was attracted to conservatism. And this change, rather than being welcomed at university by the hordes of aristocrats and foreign princes, was met with overwhelming derision and contempt. Being a conservative meant that I would rather have myself kicked out of university for financial reasons. It meant that I wanted to see my low income family and disabled relatives starving and neglected. I was attacking the education system which took me from an urban comprehensive school to Oxford, and the healthcare system which I have benefited from and work for. This contempt is hardly confined to undergraduate wannabe revolutionists. Research Fellows in Ethics have even used their professional platforms to tell us, explicitly and without even the pretence of academic argument, that we are not wanted.
Maybe I am wrong about my support for conservatism. And I would never pretend that the big 'C' Conservatives have got everything right. There are wicked and callous members among our ranks. But the normal response to conservatives from humble backgrounds, if not to outright reject them, is simply to patronise them. Of course, we don't know what we want. How could we, when our simple and unrefined minds have all been crippled by the forces of fear and Rupert Murdoch? We need to stop being brainwashed by Etonian politicians and listen to the Oxonians, with their privileged, middle-class liberal backgrounds and bright futures. They know better than us about how to guard our futures and those of the vulnerable in our communities. And maybe, when they are not throwing Masquerade Balls and throwing money at black tie events, they will have the good grace to tell us through their protests against high student rent and high tuition fees. Because the government looking out for privileged Oxford students is exactly what the homeless need.
So to the shy Tories: speak up. We are no longer so few as to be ashamed of our feelings, and we can no longer let young students be bullied and ostracised into accepting dogmas they haven't thought about. And to my patient, welcoming, liberal friends: thank you for your thoughtfulness, your friendship and for resisting this malicious part of university culture. I appreciate our common goal of truth and protection for the vulnerable.
But to the rest, it is time to say: we conservatives are sick of it. We are sick of the vocal groups shaming us. We are sick of the liberal elite telling us what we want and how we want it. And shaming us is not helping your cause either. Liberals are becoming increasingly insular, retreating from dangerous ideas (what else are universities for?) and into their echo chambers of hatred. The result? Those of us who reflect thoughtfully and conversantly on political ideas become increasingly impatient with the shaming and insulting culture of the liberal elite. And the closure of minds to conservative ideas results in a lack of thoughtful compromise in liberal policies, and a blindness to the misgivings we plebeians have about them. Is it any wonder that the loudmouthed champagne socialists woke up to such a horrible surprise on Friday morning?Suggest a correction