"You are not your political opinion: it is simply a collection of views and ideals that you believe in"
While political views have never caused any of my friendships to end, they’ve been a massive point of tension throughout most of my adult life.
I come from a right-wing background, with the majority of my family consistently voting Conservative: my grandparents, my parents and most family friends.
It’s safe to say that growing up, certain ideas were ingrained in my life and my subconscious which reflected Conservative views.
To an extent this is understandable: you and your opinions are influenced by the people who surround you and you also surround yourself with people with similar views.
It’s worth noting the seat in my area has consistently yo-yoed between Labour and Conservative, with neither having a vast majority. This was reflected by the majority of my school friends having strong left-wing views. As a result of having both influences in my life, I believe I have an open opinion when it comes to politics, not siding with either of the two main parties.
It wasn’t until I went into 6th Form that I began to talk about politics with my friends. Looking back, I think this is due partially to A Level subjects, a popular choice being Government and Politics, and also as a result of being treated more like adults and having our opinions heard for the first time.
The discussions we had were informed, to an extent, and fuelled by passion – however this passion quickly turned to anger and disagreement, and they often ended with people not being allowed to air their opinions.
As the majority of my school friends were fiercely Labour, there became an evident theme of hating Conservatives, despite this being a vast generalisation.
In a group of strong-minded teenage girls, there then became a pack mentality where, if you didn’t agree with the group opinion – which was almost always Labour – then you were looked down on, dismissed and to a certain extent excluded.
This was demonstrated through one girl with very strong Conservative views: she would do her best not to involve herself in political discussions, as she knew it would result in an unequal argument where she would be belittled and shut down completely.
Whilst my university is filled with open-minded people of varying political opinions, I have seen this same trend from school. It’s an environment where people aren’t afraid to speak their minds, however it is often taken too far.
Once again, the theme I’ve encountered has been that you are wrong if you don’t agree with one particular view, and more often than not these would be Labour views.
I’ve felt very conflicted, as there were very often slanderous remarks made about not only the Conservative party but anyone who voted for them, with the phrase ‘tory scum’ being thrown around very nonchalantly.
Whilst I wouldn’t define myself as a ‘Tory’, I often feel the need to defend them due to my family background – however as soon as you do that, you’re seen to be ‘one of them’, which comes with a loaded stigma.
This is a social stigma formed from an image of privilege, with the mascot seeming to be an upper-class white man, often privately educated and wealthy.
To an extent, this makes it easier for a lot of people to have negative opinions about the Conservatives, generalising such a large group of people to one single image.
I would argue that at this point it is less about the political views themselves and more about this pack mentality, which is against any association with this generalised idea that has been created. The political views matter less and the idea of siding with this notion of ‘tory scum’ becomes the main point, a lot of people finding unity and solidarity in it.
In my opinion, your political views shouldn’t affect friendships, as you are not your political opinion: it is simply a collection of views and ideals that you believe in.
However, knowing that this is an idealised thought, I often find myself not sharing my opinions in a political conversation for fear of being shouted down. This is something I have learnt as a result of attempting to defend slanderous remarks about the Conservatives; I say ‘attempting’, as before I can make a point I’m deemed ‘one of them’.
This is not only seen as negative but has also distanced me from my friends, who were all of the same opinion and unable to open up to the idea of not hating this generalised group of people: ‘the Tories’.
Political views definitely have the ability to break up friendships, as there is a lot of room for disagreement and conflicting opinions. Whilst my advice would never be to not speak up about your opinions, that is ultimately how I survived 6th Form.