Despite subscribing to the feminist calling card never [expletive] a Tory , this year I decided it would be acceptable, big of me even, to at least befriend one. I never set out with this intention. In fact, when I first befriended him – he has requested not to be named because, and I quote, “I don’t want to end my uni sex life in one article” – I wasn’t even aware of his political leanings.
This is rare, for you see, it is usually very easy to spot a Tory. For those uninitiated, but perhaps would like to keep their eyes peeled for a sighting of the Vulgaris Sanctus Andrus Torius (more commonly known as the Saint Andrews Tory), here’s a nifty guide to spotting one around town: a St Andrews Tory can often be heard making its natural mating calls, these include words such as Range Rovah and Gap Yah ; in summer, the St Andrews Tory may often migrate to London for its internship at Daddy’s investment bank; moreover, if you are in Aldi and witness a scene worthy of its own verse in Pulp’s Common People – congratulations, you have found a St Andrews Tory.
Perhaps, your issue is not however, spotting one, and instead you are looking for a way to return an errant Vulgaris Torius that has wondered its way into your accommodation to its natural habitat. To do so, you will need to prepare a lure – a bottle of Moet and an invite to join the Kate Kennedy Club should suffice. But the major signifying feature of a St Andrews Tory is the fact that they vote for the Conservative Party in UK elections.
However, my friend did not fit into these stereotypes. Was I guilty of what I despised – judging a book by its cover? My view had been challenged, if my friend could fall outside of my perception of what a Tory is, could others as well? Had I been lied to by the liberal media? Were Tories actually – dare I utter it – alright ? Maybe they weren’t all Jacob Rees-Mogg sans 30 years, and don’t all think that Boris Johnson is the ultimate “lad” because he reminds them of their mate Johnty, aka Archbishop of Banterbury, from Saturday morning ruggers.
Maybe they’re just people with a different opinion to my own. I’d heard rumours that the Tory party was changing, but I’d thought that was all it had been – rumours. Inspired by a recent procrastinatory binge of Derry Girls, if the rumours were true, perhaps it was time to make friends across the barricade or, in the words of Erin, “it was time to build metaphorical bridges”.
Living out my Louis Theroux based fantasy and under the guise of pseudo-investigative journalism, I decided to probe further to discover if the rumours were indeed, true. Living with science students had rubbed off on me and I set out with my hypothesis (my list of stereotypes) to test for falsifiability. The perfect opportunity arose for me to carry out my experiment when I got invited by my friend to attend the St Andrews University Conservative and Unionist Association’s (StAUCA) event dubbed “Port and Policy”.
To my friend’s surprise, I accepted the invite – the things I will do in the name of student journalism. As I foraged through my wardrobe the night of the event, desperately hoping it would provide the answer to the eternal question: “what does one wear to fit in at an event for Conservatives and Unionists?”, I realised that my search would be fruitless for I owned neither tweed nor Barbour. I checked my phone for the location of Port and Policy – a church. Was this to be a religious event? A political epiphany? (Spoiler: it was not).
Fittingly, for such a location, I noted upon arrival that everyone was dressed in their Sunday Best. Standing in a roomful of the suited and booted, I was suddenly glad that I had decided against dawning my trusty Doc Martens. I also noted that, when I entered the event, I was one of only three girls in a room of 25 – so, ladies, if you want to meet a man who’s a really big fan of corduroy trousers, you know where to go. However, on a more serious note, if the Tory Party want to rid themselves of their stereotype as a private school boys’ club, the StAUCA is not the beacon of hope to look towards for doing so.
While the “boys’ club” myth was not being debunked any time soon, the bare hands of those in attendance did debunk the myth that the Vulgarius Torius , much like the common garden magpie, had a fondness for shiny signet rings.
For those unfamiliar with Port and Policy, as was I (I’m ashamed to say that I am still not entirely sure what port is), the event adopts a debate-style format: one member acts as the chairperson, introducing the motion and generally facilitating the debate; one member will speak in support of the motion, while the other speaks in opposition. After, the floor is opened for audience members to air their opinions, and finally a vote is taken to decide if the motion shall be passed. To be honest, I was surprised that the event took a debate-style format where a range of opinions are voiced, as opposed to the homogenised chanting of BoJo BoJo BoJo that I’d been expecting.
The first motion presented centred around support for the construction of the high-speed railway, HS2. Both speakers were extremely well-spoken – looks like all that private schooling has paid off – and funny, so much so that even I could not suppress a chuckle. Overall, the atmosphere was one of jocular irreverence. Things were looking – and I say this begrudgingly – promising.
However, my encroaching high spirits were not to last for long, struck down as I heard the next motion being read out : the question of support for gay marriage. What was next? This House Questions a Women’s Right to Vote? As the speaker in support of the motion took the stand, and the tone of jovial irreverence continued, I no longer found myself laughing along with the rest of the audience but cringing instead.
While I found the idea of ‘playing’ at being a homophobe, even if only for the purpose of a ‘jolly good debate’, profoundly uncomfortable, the speaker opposing gay marriage obviously didn’t – so in character he was, that at one point I was surprised that a rendition of Jerusalem didn’t spontaneously erupt.
“Playing” at being a bigot, pretending to hate a minority group, just isn’t my idea of fun. I didn’t feel like the statements being made, such as “gay marriage harms society”, were justified by the defence of “only being a joke”- just because your statements were said in good humour, doesn’t mean they were in good taste. I was then subjected to listening to the apparent “fact” that the only marriage not condemned to hell was marriage between man and a woman and that children who grow up in a household not consisting of a husband and wife are “actively harmed”.
And, when the debate was opened to the audience, I was no longer certain that the statements opposing gay marriage were just in “jest” anymore – with one person stating “I don’t want to voice my opinion on why I oppose gay marriage as I don’t want to be kicked out the university”. He then proceeded to voice it anyway after jeers of encouragement from his peers. At the end of the debate, I was further shocked by the fact that not an insignificant number of people voted in favour of opposing gay marriage. After that, to quote Louis Theroux : “I wasn’t quite sure what I’d just seen, but I knew it was time to leave”, and I made my hasty depart.
To the opposition speaker issues of minority group rights, like all politics, was a joke. Issues of minority rights were viewed as an arena in which you can one-up your friends through the use of erudite words, rather than an issue that has serious impacts on the lives of real people.
In the spirit of StAUCA, I wanted to end this article in the same way that they approach politics, with jovial irreverence, but like I stated earlier, some things just aren’t in good taste to joke about. I would have liked to sum up this article with a message about how stereotypes are bad and from my new enlightened mindset, I would have preached to you all that now is the time to put our differences aside. Perhaps, I would have made a reference to the friendship between RBG and Anthony Scalia as an example to show that such relationships are possible.
Individually, I know that some of these boys are nice palatable people who don’t fall into the stereotypes, but when gathered together at Port and Policy, it felt like a group in which Boris Johnson himself would not be out of place. Unfortunately, despite my greatest hopes, many of my stereotypes were reaffirmed. Ergo instead, I shall end this article by stating that things don’t always pan out as you’d like, so wear your Doc Martens with pride, seize the means of production, and in the words of Stormzy: %#&? the Government and #&!$ Boris.