I Spoke to Some Screaming Tory-Haters Outside the Tory Conference
And asked them why they want the Conservatives to feel shame.
By and large, Conservatives tend to wish they could just ignore the people that hate them, so they can get back to feeling innately superior and finding innovative new ways to force local councils to buy products from murderous regimes. But undeniably, one of the big talking points at this year's Tory party conference in Manchester has been the protests outside the venue's entrance.
Every day since that guy got hit in the face with an egg on Sunday there have been more protests, as angry people gather to scream "shame" at anyone walking into the venue with a blue lanyard. Whenever suit-wearing Conservative members are about to exit the conference "safe zone", they hide their conference passes and programmes and nervously joke to each other, asking whether they've been heckled and called "scum" yet. In the smoking area, from which you can see and hear the protests, Tories speculate as to what collective defect these protesters might possess, or which disinformation they have been reading to make them so angry. Boris Johnson joked about it in a speech at a fringe event, pretending to mishear "Tory scum" as "Tories, come". The fact that some people wish they weren't here seems inescapable.
Yesterday was day three of the conference and the protests were still going strong, leading to scenes such as the one above; an NHS protester twirling a rattle in the face of any passing Conservative.
In the safety of the conference centre, I spoke to one party member who couldn't contain her disgust. " I've got a four-year-old child and I expect her to behave better than that," she told me, explaining that some of the protesters had been drinking at the pub she was staying at the previous night. "It was terrifying. On my way home I shook the hand of every policeman I met and said 'thank you very much'. At one point I was forced to join the protest get to the police cordon and back into safety. It was the scariest thing I have ever had to do."
"At one point I was forced to join the protest get to the police cordon and back into safety. It was the scariest thing I have ever had to do" – a Tory Party member explains her fear
"Me and a couple of people were talking about going to protest outside the Labour conference next year. We were talking about what a Conservative protest would look like. There would be a string quartet, deck chairs, we'd be drinking tea and coffee, eating strawberries and cream and wishing them all a very nice conference, because even though we disagree with them, we don't hate them." This nightmarish vision of twee lost my sympathy almost immediately.
Weirdly, there were also some people protesting because they feel the Conservatives are not conservative enough and are far too grounded in the real world. The guy with the monkey placard told me that "Christian science" should be taught in schools. He talked about sodomy a lot so I asked him if he thought it should be banned. He said it should "in public" but didn't think you should spy into people's bedrooms. So those of you who enjoy anal sex in the street have been warned.
Apart from those guys, the crowd seemed to be mostly your more traditional left-wing Tory-haters. I braved the possibility of getting spat at to see what was motivating them to spend the day hanging around outside someone else's shindig, purely to tell the people going inside that they're all a bunch of dicks.
VICE: Why are you guys here? Selling fine wine to rich delegates?
Andrew: They [the Conservatives] are deliberately trying to destroy things and sell them to their friends and harming everyone else for the betterment of themselves.
How do you want the party members to feel when you heckle them?
Shame. I want them to feel how they're affecting people's lives.
Martin: It's easy to read reports but when you have to walk through a crowd of people...
Do you think they will feel shamed?
Andrew: I don't think they will. I think they've been conditioned from a young age to think they're better than us.
Martin: How could anyone who's less well educated than them have a better opinion? How could we possibly be more well-informed when they go from the best education money can buy directly to Parliament? They've never struggled for anything then they tell us how to struggle to better ourselves.
Andrew: I hope it removes some wind from their sales. But you also see the pride of people walking past and getting abused. They seem to revel in being hated. If you receive that much hatred you develop a thicker skin, so it's difficult to find a line between protest and abuse.
Some of these protests have moved well into abuse territory. What do you make of that?
Martin: Screaming "pig-fucker" into someone's face isn't going to help.
VICE: Hi Megan, why are you here telling Tories how much you hate them?Megan: I've come here today because everything I've heard that the Tories are doing just seems like it's destroying the country. They're taking away school meals for the under sevens, which is horrific. There are a lot of poor children who don't get meals at home...
Sorry, it's just quite upsetting.
Taking tax credits away from people who work really hard but can't afford to feed their children and heat their homes. Just generally stomping on people.
Have you been personally affected by this?
Yeah, I work for myself it just means that my finances, when I go back to work, it's going to be hard. Really hard.
His future [pointing to her son], education-wise they're ruining the whole system. People can't afford to get education. As soon as they come out of university they're thousands and thousands of pounds in debt with no chance of getting jobs. I'd rather he didn't go to university because it just seems like a shit start to life. It's just disgraceful what they're doing.
Thanks for talking to me, Megan.
VICE: What's with the hats?
Lidia: It's a Tory hat. It's "tax payer's money". Actually, it's Monopoly money that I had to borrow.
Suzie: I just wanted to wear a fez.
Why are you here?
Manchester generally is a very progressive place to live and we don't want the Tories here.
Is it "progressive" to be hassling people just because you disagree with them?
It's definitely alright to be heckling people. It's not alright to be chucking stuff and attacking people but we have the right to protest. Throughout history the one thing that's lifted the little man up is the right to have our voices heard and if that means heckling and laughing at people and making a bit of noise then I think it's better than things descending into violence and riots. And if things keep going the way they are, people will get desperate and they will riot again. It's best to do it properly – if that means making fun of [lowers voice] pig-fucker Cameron, what other way have we got to be heard?
But they won the election.
Lidia: We're the majority. 66 percent of people did not vote for them. I would never vote for them.
Suzie: When we're scrabbling together for bills to pay the electric, and then you read about the bloody Tory peers and their expenses – Iain Duncan Smith's £39 breakfast – it's hypocrisy, sheer hypocrisy.
Lidia: The poorest, the most vulnerable, the disabled, the sick... I've got friends who can't work through sickness. They're having everything taken away. Everything. We're having our tax credits taken away. We don't want something for nothing – my husband works 70 hours a week on his feet. We want fairness for everybody, not just for the richest.
VICE: Hi Simon, how long have you been here?
Simon: I've been here all morning. I've been off work on holiday and I'm gonna come here.
What are you here to say?
I'm a train driver, I want the railways to be renationalised. I want a Vote of "No Confidence" to get the Tories out. I want Jeremy Corbyn in. I want nationalisation of major industries and energy supplies. That's it, in short.
You mentioned Jeremy Corbyn, who's been talking about a "kinder politics". Is this an example of that?
Well, socialist is a broad church, innit? A lot of people here aren't socialists so they probably wouldn't vote for Jeremy Corbyn. I'm a socialist, I'll vote Corbyn. To say that everybody who's against the Tories is a Labour voter is rubbish.
Er, I see. What's the aim of this?
I want them to think about why they came to rub our noses in it in Manchester. Manchester didn't vote for any of these MPs. This is a Labour heartland and we don't want them here. This was obviously deliberate. There was the Peterloo massacre. I just want them to know that they're not welcome and they've hurt and killed people through their policies and everything they stand for, I'm against.
Person to person, face to face.
I see. Thanks!