There are, broadly speaking, two approaches to campaigning; you can focus on others, or on yourself. Of course many degrees of moderation between the two exist, neither are ever truly used exclusively. The politics of the other, describes a style of politics which requires you to identify friend and foe, and always act with the foe in sight.
I bring this up in light of recent events and controversy on campus. For those who have managed to resist the urge to procrastinate and have studied diligently, a group of students held a protest entitled Emergency Rally: Democracy Now. The march sought to rally students in protest against the First Past the Post electoral system, the planned cuts to spending by the new Conservative majority and the Conservatives themselves.
It is that third and last point which should raise an eyebrow. Over the weekend, a war memorial in London was defaced with graffiti saying “Fight Tory Scum”. It is correct and absolutely legitimate to argue that a Government which gains an absolute majority, should be elected by more than 37% of those that voted. However, this does not make that government illegitmate, and to demonise those same voters and then to ask why many feel they cannot openly share their political beliefs, is absurd.
The march in York worryingly followed this very tendency. A speaker at said rally called for “hating those scumbag Tories, with all our passion and all our might”, while making a more general point about reaching out to Conservatives and UKIP voters. What this rally demonstrated was a style of campaigning against a specific part of the population. Significant time, both during the promotion of the event, and during the actual event, was dedicated towards Tories. This kind of politics alienates and divides people.
Herein lies a problem which YUSU must engage with. The rally in question was organised by two non-sabbatical YUSU officers. Had they protested for electoral change, or against cuts, this controversy would have never occurred. However, when you protest people rather policies, you are likely to become unapproachable to many, whom you are meant to be serving. This rationale cost a member of Halifax’s student association his position last year, after he endorsed the vile policies of the Ugandan Government towards the LGBTQ community. It was argued quite rightly, that an essential part of his position was to be approachable by those he meant to be serving.
Now it must be pointed out, that these methods are in no way unique to the political left. UKIP identifies the “other” as Immigrants and the EU, blaming common occurrences like traffic delays on foreigners. In fact, the political ideology I have been describing was first described by Carl Schmitt, a Nazi legal scholar whose writings on totalitarian states have remained relevant until today. Schmitt argued for a state which always governed with the enemy in sight, when necessary appointing a dictator to “deal” with such enemies without having to worry about common laws.
It is quite ironic then, that the radical political left have adopted these very same tactics, to demonise those they disagree with, to treat them with contempt and hatred. Take it from someone who is not from the UK, who has no stake in Britain’s political future or particular interest in it, and by UK standards is not even a conservative. If you had before the election, described to me the hostility towards conservatives, I would have laughed. Now I am no longer so certain. I do not feel that this hostility can be found in large parts of the population, but the sheer amount present in some is unsettling.