Young and Centre-Left, but I had a Conversation with the Other Side.

I’m from and live in the UK and politically speaking, I’m young and I’m Centre-Left. I’d personally vote for Labour in the upcoming election on the 8th June 2017, but I will be voting for the Liberal Democrats as they currently hold the seat and a lot of support in my area. Regardless of this, I have a distant family relative who is right-wing and who said that they will be voting for the Conservatives, although ideally they’d like Nigel Farage to be Prime Minister. Now this family member is a lot older than me, old enough to remember ‘the winter of discontent’ from 1978-1979. So needless to say, we sit on either sides of the fence and so called generational divide when it comes to the upcoming general election and the past Brexit referendum.

How do I know this? Well I was so frustrated with the hate being thrown from the left and the right, and I was so frustrated about my own lack of knowledge and understanding of the older generations, that I decided to bite the bullet and ask my right-wing family member about their thoughts, opinions and views on the world. Here’s what I found out…

Fear.

Yes you read correctly; I believe my right-wing family member has arrived at all of their views, thoughts and opinions through fear. Fear of change, fear of history repeating itself, and fear of the extreme minorities.

There was some common ground between us that I think we were both surprised about. We agreed on certain things like approaching immigration in a better way and we were both saddened by the refugee crisis across Europe. We agreed that the UK shouldn’t have gone into Iraq during the Blair years and that we had ‘stuck our nose in where it doesn’t belong’. We agreed that the EU probably hasn’t been run in the way it should have been, although my right-wing family member was a little more anti the EU. When it came to home grown terrorists we both agreed that some assistance at the grass-roots level and better integration into society could help in a lot of cases. We agreed that in the war-torn areas, particularly in the Middle East, that firstly the wars needed to be stopped and resolved, and secondly, the people from these areas needed financial aid to rebuild their cities, towns and lives. We both agreed that perhaps the UK could join a different version of the EU at a later stage if the conditions were right. We agreed that covering the deserts of the Earth in solar panels would produce more than enough energy to supply the entire planet. We also agreed that fracking should be banned.

However, there was still plenty that we disagreed on too.

I argued that even if the UK withdrew from the EU (which it is doing anyways) and in theory closed all its borders and had nothing to do with the rest of the world, then the problems occurring in other countries would still affect us. I also argued that we have global issues, such as climate change, cyber-crime and international terrorism that will require a global response and resolutions.

I asked my family member why they disliked Jeremy Corbyn so much, and found that they thought Corbyn was a fossil that would take us back to the 1970’s and bring about another ‘winter of discontent’, despite the fact that Corbyn has in no way said that he is going to nationalise everything, and many of the jobs that existed back then do not exist now. Not to mention we live in a different age with virtually unlimited communication due to the internet. My family member also thought that Corbyn doesn’t and hadn’t condemned the IRA, which in fact he has, and I pointed it out twice that Corbyn has said he condemns the bombings by both the IRA and the Loyalists. My family member went on to criticise Corbyn who stood silent during the national anthem at a Battle of Britain remembrance ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral. They also criticised Corbyn for not being a royalist. To this I replied that Corbyn’s generation actually rarely sang the national anthem back in their younger days, they chose to stand to attention in respectful silence. I also pointed out that just because he wasn’t a royalist didn’t mean he couldn’t be respectful and pleasant towards the Queen and the royal family.

Still the fear came back and ‘the winter of discontent’ resurfaced as a topic, my family member said that they remembered sitting in class for just two days a week with only half the class in attendance due to the teacher’s strike. They also remembered being in their coat because there was no heating and when they got home after school there was no dinner because there was no power, so they sat in candlelight eating uncooked food. The tanker drivers, dinner ladies, bin men were all on strike too and there was rubbish and rats piled high in the streets. Jeremy Corbyn represents another ‘winter of discontent’ for my right-wing family member and they struggle to see it any other way.

There was more fear over violence, hate speech and rape threats, particularly from those who identified themselves with Islam. My family member pointed out a number of extreme, yet few cases as examples. I agreed that the law should come down hard on anyone who threatens to rape no matter what religion they may identify with. We disagreed a little over the Manchester Arena bombing. My family member was convinced that the young man involved felt displaced moving to the UK and had been forced to follow Islam and that his hatred had brewed in this way. I pointed out that there were tens of thousands of Muslims in the UK who didn’t become radicalised and that by my family member’s logic, they should have been if this was the case. I told my family member that deporting Islamic radicalists would not work either, it would just let them carry their extreme beliefs to another country. I believe that the only way is to imprison these people with rehabilitation at a later stage, yet for this to succeed we would need more police officers and prison staff.

My family member also pointed towards, in their eyes, the inevitable rise of the far-right across Europe and how they believed it would bring about the collapse of the EU, in their mind it is better to jump from the EU ship now than sink down with it. However, I argued that this hadn’t actually happened yet, and in my mind Brexit only strengthens and aids the far-right groups across Europe, the very thing that my family member confessed to being afraid of. My family member said they believed joining the EU was a mistake and that many from their generation felt like they were putting right a serious wrong. I argued that I didn’t think joining the EU was a mistake, the initial ideas behind the EU were good, but they have not been executed as they should have been.

I realised then that the next thing I found with my right-wing family member was….

Contradictions.

Two stuck out as blindingly obvious to me; firstly they agreed that fracking should be banned, outlawed in fact, but they will still vote Conservative even though the Conservatives support fracking in the UK. Secondly, Nigel Farage was the leader of UKIP, the far-right group in the UK yet my family member repeatedly said that they feared the rise of the far-right across Europe. When I quizzed them on this point, they felt that the UK’s far-right was nowhere near as bad as the rest of the far-right across Europe. This did little to ease my mind on this point, as I feel that Brexit will give momentum to the far-right across Europe. My family member also confessed to believing that Donald Trump is a lunatic, which again, Trump’s views on the world could be considered very right-wing.

My family member believes that Brexit is an opportunity, I agreed it was an opportunity but at what cost? I also pointed out that all the parties had accepted that Brexit will go ahead regardless so why vote Conservative? My family member replied that they felt they could only vote UKIP or Conservative and that the Conservatives were the better option, even though they openly admitted to disagreeing with many of the Conservative policies.

I also pointed out that Brexit itself is going to be expensive and could cripple the UK for decades to come; my right-wing family member glossed over this detail and told me that it was up to my generation to make ‘Britain Great Again.’ I told him that Britain, like every other country, was never ‘Great’ we did some terrible things in the past and no one country is innocent either. I shuddered a little bit at this statement; it reminded me of Trump and his slogan ‘Make America Great Again’, America too, has never been great. I pointed out that 71% of young people voted to Remain, to which my family member argued that more younger people wanted to Leave and that the turn-out had been low amongst my age group because the younger generations couldn’t be bothered to vote. I replied well if that was the case then the younger Leave voters couldn’t be bothered to vote either.

I responded with the fact that politics isn’t taught in our schools, my generation hasn’t been brought up during a time of war or unrest, and even within history lessons there isn’t really any political context. Unfortunately the younger generations aren’t taught or made aware of the importance of their vote, and sitting in parliament today you don’t see many young faces who represent the younger population. The other problem is that both parents typically work longer and longer hours and don’t necessarily have the time or energy to teach their children about politics either. So we’re a generation that has been brought up during a time of relative peace with no political education, and virtually no younger MP’s in parliament, and they wonder why some of the younger generations are so disengaged?

When we spoke about fracking, which we both think should be banned. I said that it could pollute the groundwater and would probably cause earthquakes, bearing in mind that the homes in the UK are not built to withstand earthquakes. My family member replied that they would worry about that later to which I responded that you can’t just fix pollution later. My family member suggested that we are an island so we can desalinate sea water, to which I replied that it is an unrealistic option as it is extremely expensive to do that. I said that the South of England wouldn’t feel the negative consequences from fracking straight away, but the North would. Insurance, house prices, ground water and lives could all be negatively affected, making life even more difficult for a lot of people.

So when it got down to it, the only reason why my right-wing family member has decided to vote Conservative is because they agree with Theresa May that we need a ‘hard Brexit, and that no deal is better than a bad deal’. I asked why did we have to have a hard Brexit, Brexit is going ahead anyways? There was no reply. I also think now that ‘no deal’ is really another bad deal, so really we have the choice between two bad deals with Theresa May and no one has told us what a good deal would look like. Are we doomed to just accept bad deals then? At the same time, does this excuse the fact that we have still had austerity for the last seven years of Conservative rule? In my eyes they’re not doing any better than any other party. Also ‘Coalition of Chaos’ who came up with that one? The only recent coalition we had was between the Conservatives and Lib Dems, so are the Conservatives saying that their own coalition government was chaos? It hasn’t improved anything, but it doesn’t mean that a coalition between other parties wouldn’t work.

Yes, I and my right-wing family member disagreed, but we did agree on some things. There is more common ground between the left and the right than you may realise, we have the same or similar goals, but we believe in different methods on getting there. If you’re right-wing or considering voting for Conservatives, please ask yourself, have your opinions and views been shaped by fear? And please, vote for the policies that you believe in, not the party or their leaders. I will not condemn my family member for choosing to vote for the Conservatives and I hope they do not condemn me for choosing to vote Liberal Democrats.It’s your vote, so you can do what you want with it. I will not scream insults at the right-wing just because they disagree with me, it does no good anyways and leads to arguments that I’m sure most of you have seen online and offline for yourselves. However, if we truly want to make Britain ‘Great’ for the first time, then we mustn’t let fear rule our hearts and we really need to stop fighting amongst ourselves and start talking to each other. You’re going to disagree and it’s going to feel uncomfortable, but that’s ok, if we all agreed on everything the world might be a lot safer but it would be an incredibly boring place.

 

 

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