Is it OK to hate tories?

On tonight’s episode of The Last Leg, a viewer’s tweet was put to Conservative MP Anna Soubry:

“Is it OK that I hate Tories but I quite like Anna Soubry?”

To which she replied

I think it’s interesting if you look at the language. You see, I don’t hate anybody. I’m not very fond of racists for example — I hate racism — but I don’t actually hate anybody. Why do people feel, when they’re opposed to you from the left, they have to use language like that?

Which displays such a lack of awareness, both of others and her own position, that it’s worth picking apart a bit. I’m not going to justify the very real abuse hurled at many MPs: I’m talking — as was Ms Soubry — about emotion and language.

We could simply brush it off by saying that “I hate tories” often means “I hate tory policies.” Very similar to “I hate racism.”

We could expand on that by saying that tory policies need tories to enact them. If an individual attracts anger or hatred—Jeremy Hunt or Iain Duncan-Smith to name but two — it is generally not purely because of their views, but their views combined with the fact that they have power and influence to act on them by virtue (or perhaps vice?) of being in the Conservative party.

But we can expand on that again with a proper stereotypical lefty response: The problem is very simple. It is a massive imbalance of power.

The powerful are always able to retreat into aloofness. If you are in control of your life, your money, your safety, then disagreements are just that: a debate to be had, a theoretical philosophical or economic point.

But the problem is that the powerful by definition control — completely — the lives of millions of people with no power at all. For them such disagreements are not mere debating points. In many cases they are literally life and death.

On the show, Soubry rightly castigated Boris Johnson over his horrific mistake about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe training journalists in Iran, which could see an innocent woman jailed. But her own party does precisely the same thing, almost every day, to countless other powerless Britons.

Every time an MP implies that people on benefits are lazy, or getting too much money, or don’t really deserve what they get: those words, by stigmatising claimants and leading to policies which punish them, destroy far more lives than Johnson’s stupidity.

When Jeremy Hunt lied about weekend deaths on the NHS, and used those lies to further his own destructive policies, he wrecked not only the lives of many patients who believed him and delayed seeking treatment, but also the lives of so many junior doctors who suffered considerable pay cuts and dangerous working hours.

When disability benefits claimants are described as fraudsters and scroungers, abuse towards (and attacks on) disabled people increase.

We could ask Anna Soubry, how are these examples different to Boris Johnson? Ah, wait, I’ve got it: because unlike Johnson just blurting stuff out, these are deliberate words and deliberate policies, aimed at people who have no way to fight back.

Conservatives like Ms Soubry don’t have to hate anyone, because no-one is wrecking their lives, cutting their pay, or controlling every aspect of their existence with an almost Kafkaesque disregard for their humanity. They don’t have to work hard to get power — almost everyone who can help them (press, business, etc) is on their side anyway, because the whole point of the party is to preserve the privilege of such people. Power comes naturally.

But when, day after day, you suffer at their hands: then the emotions of hate and anger are not only understandable, but a totally reasonable thing to feel.

And here is where the left come in. Because what is the left for, if not to try to counter imbalances of power? To give people more meaningful control over their lives, to stop the horrific abuses of the powerful? While many see the left as interfering nanny-statists, the point is that you have to have rules to curtail these abuses and give some control — some hope — to those who have nothing.

If the left hate the tories, it is because of the latter’s deliberate indifference to the dreadful consequences of their words and policies: a problem completely demonstrated by Ms Soubry’s response.

As long as there is a massive power differential, with people at the top systematically abusing those below them, hatred will naturally be the response. If you don’t understand that — or worse, you choose to ignore it — you should not be an MP.