'We're Best Mates, But She's Voting Labour And I'm Voting Tory'
The Debrief: Could you ever be friends with a Tory?
We disagree with our mates a lot these days, don’t we? We listen to music through headphones, we watch Netflix on our own and we all have different opinions on, say, Rihanna’s new single. We’re so used to having different opinions and ideas and goals that we don’t all fit into the same categories. And this counts for politics, too.
Even though a recent study found less than half (49%) of young women knew how they would vote, compared to 64% of young men, the General Election is getting nearer and people are beginning to declare their allegiances. If not out loud, then at least in public. But what happens when both you and your mate are poltically minded? Politically minded enough to want to vote, but politically minded enough to be on completely different sides.
Sophie, 24, is originally from Liverpool and currently studying at UCL in London. Milly, 23, is originally from London and works in politics. They met in the first few days of uni and have been best friends ever since. But, on 7 May, Milly will be voting Conservative while Sophie is a diehard Labour supporter.
When did you find out about each other’s political views?
Sophie: I found out early on in our friendship that Milly was a Tory. It was kind of shocking at first. I asked her a lot of questions! I think I was very jokingly like, ‘Oh god no, why are you voting Tory!’ but she could always back herself up and explain her choices so that made me respect her.
Milly: In the very early days I found out that Sophie was Labour. I wasn’t surprised. It makes me happy that she’s got views but sometimes it upsets me when she makes me feel like the bad guy because of mine.
Does politics come up much when you’re together?
S: It does, but sometimes I think we try to avoid it because we know we’ll reach a stalemate. With other friends I don’t really talk about it at all; a lot of young women I know don’t talk about politics because it genuinely doesn’t interest them – or they feel like their opinion doesn’t matter.
M: Politics does come up because we both are quite passionate about what we think. But this means we take it personally when the other person disagrees, which makes me want to avoid it!
Has politics ever caused problems for your friendship?
S: We’ve had a few moments where it was kind of tense but nothing too serious. I once jokingly said that if Milly went into politics I wouldn’t vote for her unless she was Labour, even though she’s my friend. My ex-boyfriend once voted UKIP which freaked me out for like a day, but then I got over it! Obviously, now he’s my ex…
M: There was actually one big incident, it involved me deserting a party because things got too heated! It was actually one of those boat party cruises on the Thames – the boat had docked early so luckily I just left. I can’t remember what it was about exactly – just one of those standard left/right clashes I guess, but it was bad enough for me to flee!
So, do you think what it means to be Labour or Tory means something different today to what it has meant in the past?
S: I think it’s very different to what it used to be. If you support the Conservatives or Labour today then your principles won’t be as different as they might have been before. Access to politics is better today so people who want to make an informed decision can find the information they need quite easily. People are changing their minds more and not just voting because of how their family or friends vote.
M: I think people are often surprised when I don’t have such leftie views as you’d expect of a gay girl. I’m socially liberal – I’m more of a Tory when it comes to the economy really. For me it’s not really about ‘being a Conservative’ as much as it’s about taking each policy and thinking about whether it makes sense – it’s not about just taking a view because I think I should or because other people are. We need to look beyond the stereotypes of being Labour or Tory.
Does it surprise you that young women are less likely to say they know who they’re voting for than young men? Why do you think this is?
S: Not really, because people don’t talk about it very much there isn’t really a conversation about how we should be voting. Many young women I know don’t really talk about politics. When you say you don’t know who you’re going to vote for it would either mean you’re still thinking or you don’t really care. Being optimistic though, I think it’s because young women want to really think about who they’re going to vote for.
M: No. I think it’s definitely a female trait not to speak up. Politics is a very male dominated world and women are more likely to internalise their opinions. I often feel that young men are a lot more vocal about their opinions and a lot less doubting about how they feel. I’m a lot less outspoken about it, I like to think through things more. Young men are more likely to choose a side and fight for them, but I’m more likely to take each issue separately and have a think about it.
Finally, what’s your top priority for the next government?
S: The main concern I have is welfare services, like the NHS. I think welfare support is what makes the UK a place that I feel proud to live in.
M: Access to education – social inequality through education is one of the biggest problems these days. I think there should be no private education and everyone should get the same opportunities.
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Picture: Lukasz Wierzbowski
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