In response to the recent “Tory scum” debacle, our culture columnist Ciara considers whether it is appropriate to insult people on the other side of the political spectrum.
It’s not every day that I condone bullying, but things have changed recently.
Is calling Conservatives “scum” a bad move? Well, my initial instinct is to advocate for discussion; if you disagree with someone, don’t just fire insults their way immediately. There should be a point of attempting to understand your opponent, perhaps they simply don’t understand just how difficult it can be for others. Maybe they just need a bit of education and insight into the lives of the working class – ignorance can be dangerous, and education can be lifesaving.
There comes a point, however, when a friendly discussion is no longer an option. When all but five Tory MPs voted to suspend free school meals, they crossed over that line between uninformed and evil. 320 Conservatives voted to allow children to go hungry. There is no argument to justify such villainous attitudes. There are, of course, people who voted Conservative who were appalled by this decision, but they really shouldn’t be shocked, what with the Tory government’s clear lack of compassion towards the poor and working-class across the past decade. Voting Tory is not a victimless crime, whether you agree with all their policies or not.
On the day following the vote, culture secretary Nicky Morgan claimed on television that comments like Angela Rayner’s alleged “Tory scum” are what caused the overwhelming majority of Conservatives to vote against offering free school meals to those in need. For god’s sake, is it really the left that are snowflakes? If Morgan’s reasoning is correct, it really doesn’t take much for a Tory to turn from an arse-licker for the upper classes to a fully-fledged Disney villain. Should these people even be in government if a passing insult causes them to pass up the chance to feed hungry children? In my 21 years, I’ve had an array of slurs hurled at me, but I’ve never taken that as an invitation to deprive children of food.
Even although some Conservative supporters are disgusted by the vote, to the point that they have left the party, there are others who are searching far and wide for justifications for this mess. Some claiming that they often went hungry in their youth but turned out fine; some assuming that the children have lazy parents; some suggesting cheap shopping lists that really would not feed a family of more than three. Here’s the thing: there is no reason to accept child poverty simply because you experienced anything similar. “Lazy parenting” is not the fault of any child; I’m not saying that every situation in which a child cannot eat is because of an inescapable circumstance of the parent, but children are not in control of that; we can’t just “teach abusive parents a lesson” by starving their fucking children. Living in poverty isn’t a learning curve, it’s not a visual for rich folks to look at and think “God I’m so fortunate” before they turn around and enable its existence. I’ve encountered far too many Tories who have these attitudes, who will back up their government’s choices till their dying breath, all because of abhorrent bigotry.
So, should we be allowed to call Tories “scum”? Yes. If you can justify letting children go hungry and do not feel guilty about it, yes. In fact, if scum gets a bit boring for you, there’s a plethora of other names that you can use: boot-licker, Thatcher’s personal simp, and even a good old-fashioned wanker never goes amiss. Get creative with your insults! Anyone who still supports the current government doesn’t deserve your respect – all humans deserve respect, but those bastards are inhumane.