One week on: post-truths from the “unqualified” “fucking teenager” “slut” who dared to have her own opinion.

It’s been exactly one week since I set out on this blog why I voted Labour and how my personal protest against the current state of the Conservative Party would likely be replicated by other moderates across the country. Since that time I have been forced to accept some very painful truths about the reality of political discourse today.

As a tolerant, politically engaged, (historically) Conservative-leaning individual, I will never understand how deeply upsetting it can be for some people to be presented with a point of view that is different to their own. Free and thoughtful debate was, I thought, the foundation of civilised society and competition is, after all, a fundamental Conservative principle.

Thinking, it seems, is where I went wrong. No sooner had I hit “publish” than the internet raced to alert me to the error of my ways. Who was I, an “unqualified” (to have my own opinion!?), “slut” (err) and “teenager” (I’m 29, but thanks!) to dare to have a view on, well, anything. Stay tuned for a separate post entirely on sexism in politics (something I most certainly am qualified to write about) but for now, back to the matter at hand…

To be clear, I have no problem with people disagreeing with me. My blood does start to boil, however, when somebody sees a picture of a young woman next to a political piece and automatically assumes that her opinion is worthless because of her sex or her age. Surely she only got her job in the first place by “looking good” or “shagging” someone, right?

Let’s leave aside the fact that before I worked in politics I was a qualified modern languages and special needs teacher, worked for the FT in Hamburg and in London and trained in private banking (more varied experience than most political advisers, if we really must go there). I am 99% certain that my male peers would not have been subject to the same level of hateful vitriol had they dared to challenge the Party line. They may have got some abuse, they might have been called conniving or malicious, but they probably wouldn’t have been immediately written off as a vacuous tart whose singular offering in life was having a hot bod.

As I write I am already bracing myself to be told just to “get over it” because “it’s not a big deal”. Well, I respectfully disagree and any woman who has fought tooth and nail to achieve career success will tell you that it’s often in spite of a pretty face, not because of one, that you get where you want to be. In fact, it is precisely the fear of this kind of sexist derision that prevents more young women from speaking out on the issues they care about, particularly in the traditionally male-dominated arenas such as politics.

Today marks one year since the tragic murder of Jo Cox. I never met Jo, but her belief that “we have far more in common than that which divides us” strikes to the core of my desire for a more moderate, compassionate politics. We now know that Jo had received death threats for standing up for that most benevolent of beliefs. She had received vile abuse on social media long before that. Why? For being a woman who dared to speak her mind.

And so for Jo and for every young woman who aspires to have her voice heard, I will not retire away for fear of what bad men will have to say. I will not stop holding the Conservative Party I once loved to account for failing to meet the high standards I have for it. And I certainly will not worry about what those who post depolorable abuse about me online have to say.

To women everywhere I urge you to remember this: Twitter trolls are like spiders, they are far more afraid of us than we should be of them.

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Why I, a former Conservative Special Adviser, am voting Labour today, and why that should make Theresa May very, very afraid…

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I’ve always said that Conservative voters are much more pragmatic than Labour types. We tend to cast our ballot based on a considered assessment of the facts rather than sheer bloody-minded, against-all-odds (and sense) loyalty.

 

It is a well-known fact that those who have voted Conservative in the past are most likely to change their vote in the future. For most Labour voters, putting an “X” on that little slip of paper means something much more than a vote. It represents something deep and important about who they are as individuals and as a political class.

 

Some of my closest friends are Labour lifers who have developed impressive superiority complexes through a lifetime’s pride in their “superior” political principles. Admittedly, they have been less enthusiastic about the Labour Party of recent months (very satisfying) but still when I put it to them whether they would change their vote if the Party’s principles were no longer aligned with their own, not a single one of them would. I find this bizarre.

 

My decision to vote Labour was not an easy one. 15 months ago I was a Conservative Special Adviser who passionately believed in the work the Party was doing to create a fairer, more prosperous society. David Cameron, an effortlessly natural, wonderfully down-to-earth and truly principled Prime Minister, was slowly but surely repairing the reputation of the Conservative Party by bringing us into line with the 21st Century through a liberal, progressive agenda. I guess you could say it was Cuddly Conservatism, but I liked it. And my Labour friends did too…until Brexit.

 

Sadly the aftermath of that decision has left Conservative politics in a vastly different place to where it was before. I barely recognise the Party I see before me now. Sure, many of the personalities are still the same, but it’s as if the entire set was changed during the ad break and we’re all just expected not to notice what’s happened.

 

I find it deeply troubling to see the values and principles I so believed in flushed down the drain without so much as a moment’s consideration for the enormous strides we made revitalising the Conservative Party brand under David Cameron. It might not be tomorrow, but mark my words, this deft combination of U-turns, policy time-hops and flat out lies (no election till 2020 anyone?) has set us up for a stinker here. I would love to be there to wave “Emily Poole for I TOLD YOU SO” when the realisation slowly cascades down certain faces that a vote for Brexit wasn’t a vote for the worst kind of Conservative politics. Yes, people in the north still hate us, they just hated uncontrolled immigration more. Well there’s an announcement from the Ministry of No Surprises.

 

In response to the inevitable question, “but how can you vote Labour though? Jeremy Corbyn is useless/a communist/a terrorist sympathiser”: I’m not saying I think Jeremy Corbyn would make a good Prime Minister. But guess what? The situation we’re currently in isn’t very good either. The NHS is in crisis, our national security is already at risk, first-time buyers haven’t got a hope in hell of saving enough money to own a property and good school places are harder to come by than a Jane Austen £5 note. Do I care whether Jeremy Corbyn would or wouldn’t press the red button? Well why don’t we all just work on the assumption that we’re pretty screwed if we get to that point anyway?

 

Perhaps I was naive to believe that David Cameron could “pull a New Labour” on the Conservative Party as Tony Blair did back in 1997. Whichever way I look at it, something isn’t working and I owe it to my hard-fought democratic right to vote to make casting that ballot my decision, not robotic singlemindedness or fear of derision or abandonment by my peers.