Life

The Unique Hell of Living with a Tory During Lockdown

I have honestly never heard someone praise Boris Johnson so much in my life.
July 17, 2020, 8:00am
What It’s Like Living with a Tory During Lockdown
Photo by Emily Bowler. Collage by VICE staff.

Lockdown is stressful even for those who are blessed to live with chill housemates, or enjoy spending time with their family members (weirdos). But what happens when you find yourself locked down under the same roof as a Tory voter? Well, that’s my current reality and let me tell you: it is not great.

I’m lucky in that the pandemic hasn’t changed my living situation, plus I’ve always known this particular family member is an ardent Tory. But being forced to spend most of the last four months with them has led to many heated debates, as we discuss the Conservative government’s (mis)handling of the coronavirus crisis. I have honestly never heard someone praise Boris Johnson so much in my life.

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It seems my lockdown living situation is far from unique. Millennials have notoriously unstable housing and employment conditions. Many of us have no choice but to wait out the pandemic back home with our right-wing parents, or stuck with housemates whose views we don’t hold.

Of course, anyone with their health and a safe place to live during a pandemic is one of the fortunate ones, but that doesn’t make listening to your dad guffaw at Johnson’s PMQs "joke" about Calvin Klein briefs any easier. I spoke to people locked down with Tories about how they’re coping.

“We ended up buying a comedy panic button and hitting it whenever the subject was raised”

My experience living with a Tory is mixed at best, and that’s being generous. I don’t usually live with him full-time, just for brief spells. I was already aware of his views, but could usually avoid any talk of it by leaving. Lockdown has made that unavoidable. Whereas before, you could perhaps be an ignorant Tory and look past the government's failings. The coronavirus crisis has made it all too clear to see. I’m a non-confrontational person, so tend to avoid talking about politics if possible.

However, even I couldn’t resist the bait being dangled in front of me, namely comments about Boris doing “such a great job”, “he’s fantastic” and “if this was Labour we’d be in an absolute state”. I found confronting and challenging him just didn’t work, and I’m fortunate enough that I have my own flat I can escape to, which seemed to be the only solution.

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We also ended up buying a comedy panic button, and hitting it whenever the subject was raised. And it was hit a lot. So, that at least managed to reduce some of the tensions. Jack, 24.

“I think it was his blinding optimism and conviction that surprised me most”

Living with a Tory wasn’t too bad, it was more his indifference and snobbery not to see how a situation would work for the other guy. And lockdown definitely didn’t change my opinion of him, just cemented what I already knew. He seemed to praise all of Boris’ actions for announcing an already late lockdown. In his eyes, the Tories should be praised since they were coping considerably well after poor old Boris had been in hospital. It only confirmed my bitterness towards him because he couldn’t see the faults of a Tory government. I think it was his blinding optimism and conviction that surprised me most – the view that they can do no wrong.

In the end, I just coped by not bringing up politics or anything that would diverge into a more heated discussion. We just kept things neutral and tried to avoid each other when it was just us two. It definitely helped having other people living with us to diffuse the tension, because I know otherwise daggers would’ve been drawn. Bianca, 22.

“My parents don’t know that I haven’t voted Tory in any general election and I will keep it that way to avoid any disagreements”

I moved back home in lockdown, and due to the amount of forced interaction with my parents, we have had the opportunity to discuss at length their opinions on tax, immigration and their view on a possible Labour government. It’s been refreshing to see my parents willing to criticise some of the government’s actions (or lack of) during this pandemic, rather than feeling the need to defend them as they’d usually do.

Generally, I’m very private about my political views and appreciate listening to the views of others. My parents don’t know that I haven’t voted for the Conservative Party in any election and I will keep it that way to avoid any disagreements!

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You can only control what you do and what you believe in and you can’t control those of others. I know that is quite a pessimistic and anti-activist stance, but I’m still learning too. I know what I believe in so that’s what matters to me. I think it’s important to remember that Tory views are just as valid as those of Labour supporters – not all Tory voters are the racist and selfish stereotype they are made out to be – so we’ve got to listen and learn from each other. Nina, 24.

“I feel like my mother’s partner often baits me into discussions for the sake of being contrarian”

My living situation was definitely exacerbated by lockdown. I feel like my mother’s partner often baits me into discussions for the sake of being contrarian. These conversations will usually happen in innocuous situations, like over dinner. He’s almost Farage-esque: presents himself as a man of the people to justify himself detailing working class causes, but at the same time has £500,000 in bonds and has a trust fund for his daughter. I’m quite tired of it, actually.

But there was a big final straw. He said the Black Lives Matter movement has links to ISIS, and basically shouted over me the whole time and called my friends terrorists. I was so angry that my mother didn’t say anything at all about the way he spoke to me and how his comments have had an effect on me.

After that, I returned to my university house, 170 miles away, which wasn’t ideal as my landlord has been racist to me in the past. I haven’t spoken to my mother or her partner in three weeks and my tenancy is about to run out. I’m not entirely sure what to do next. There’s no changing his views in my opinion. You can have decent conversations with Tories – nothing is immune from critique and an echo chamber is no good. However, once it’s past that, I’d just disengage. It’s not worth it, especially if you have to justify your own existence to somebody who’s only arguing for clout. Jim, 20.

Some names have been changed.

@shahedezaydi