What turned Tory Mums into Corbyn Lovers?
The author and her Labour Mum
The season of discontent began when my family voted to leave the EU, but the true fallout really started a week ago, when I found out they were all voting Tory. Everyone is entitled to their own political beliefs, of course, but I had a feeling many of my family members – working class men and women who would be voting against their own interests by voting Tory – were only doing so because of the unrelenting smear campaign waged against Jeremy Corbyn by the right-wing press. So I wanted to do something about it.
There was no way to reason with my dad or some of my extended family, but I felt there could be hope in my mum. She is not political. She doesn't read newspapers except for the local one. She gets her politics via word of mouth, usually from her boyfriend or people at work, or any Tories trotting around the Conservative Isle of Wight she might come into contact with. She has also voted in various ways over the years.
This election, she firmly intended to vote Tory. I had to make her vote for Labour.
It was a war of attrition: sending links via Facebook Messenger, which she was "seeing" but never replying to. I'd text her news snippets I knew would appeal heavily to her – the fact that her income tax wouldn't be raised, the proposed extra bank holidays, because Helen Ewens bloody loves a bottle of Chardonnay and a period drama boxset – which eventually ended in an angry order to stop talking at all until after the election. On the day, I gave her a long-winding emotional and well cited thesis about my chronic illness, the struggle for mental health help over the years and how much I love the NHS. Surely, if she had carried me around for nine months, pushed me out and had to put up with me for 25 years, she must like me a bit. The response was "voting is a personal thing".
I thought all was lost until I rang her up yesterday and found out she'd thought it over and voted Labour for the NHS, for "the kids" and for me. I've never been more chuffed.
I'm not the only one who ground their mum down. We saw a load of people talking about it online, so we had a chat with a few of them.
Steve, 36, Reading
VICE: Hi Steve. So your mum was a Tory?
Steve: Dad has been in the RAF for over 35 years, and both him and mum vote Tory. When I first asked in April, she was adamant that she would be voting Tory again, despite me telling her how much I supported Labour and the reasons why I was voting for them. She still thought Labour were coming out with "a load of shite".
The terrorist attacks happened and her tone changed. It was like a lightbulb went off in her head. Our conversations were no longer one way, with me slating Tories and praising Labour. She was questioning Conservatives and, more so, questioning May. About a week ago I told her about some mental health issues I'd had last summer and how I couldn't see anyone when I tried through the NHS. It was an emotional conversation because she didn't know.
What swung it?
In a last ditch effort I sent her a long essay. She told me yesterday that she decided to vote for the NHS and for education.
Mums are quite good, aren't they?
Mums are the absolute best.
Charlie Simmonds, 24, Kingston
VICE: How was the mood with you voting Labour and your mum Tory?
Charlie: Last election I just assumed she was voting Labour. She's a north London, working class block of flats mum. But on the way home from the polling station she told me she voted Tory, and we didn't speak for three weeks except over emails. I live with my mum, so that was weird. My brother has borderline personality disorder and is frequently going between missing or mental health wards and stuff, so in conversation we'd talk about Tory cuts to mental health care.
So what happened?
I think she just started listening to me and others saying how things won't get better for people like my brother under the Tories. She is on Twitter a lot, so she's seen my tweets calling Tories bastards enough that she believes it now. I sent a text asking who she voted for in the end and she said, "I copied you!"
How do you feel now?
Tory Mum is no longer a Tory Mum, and I'm sat here having the happiest cry of my life.
Are you both going to crack open a cold one for Corbyn?
When I get back home I'm gonna crack open a fucking billion cold ones with her.
Holly, 24, Bristol
VICE: Tell me the story.
Holly: When the snap election was announced, she texted me to ask who I was voting for and I said Labour, obviously, then she never replied. My mum's a classic Daily Mail / The Sun reader; she goes with the tide and doesn't like politics, while my dad's ardently Tory or UKIP. So I figured it was a no-go. Then she said there was no way she could vote for our local Labour candidate because she's known him since she was young and thinks he's a dick.
The day before the election I put out a post on Facebook saying why I'd be voting Labour. She messaged me to say she'd never been more proud of me, but she still couldn't support Corbs.
What changed her mind, then?
I told her that story doing the rounds a while ago about Corbyn always offering the person sat next to him one of his sandwiches from his packed lunch on the back benches. She texted back half an hour later to say she'd voted Labour.
Cracking open a cold one with mum?
Absolutely not. She's way too busy trying to calm down my dad, who's furious that UKIP have lost!
Jamie, 28, Manchester
VICE: How did you do it?
Jamie: I said Corbyn was the first political leader that would deliver real change. It took loads of conversations over the whole campaign to bring her around, face-to-face chats and texts whenever he announced a good policy, like more social housing or NHS funding pledges. She really came around to him in the TV debates I got her to watch.
Were there anything getting in the way of your plan?
My mum's boyfriend and some of her friends are quite right-wing, so that was definitely a factor. She said she was going to vote Labour reluctantly at first, then by election day she was proud to vote for Corbyn. I honestly think it's not just the youth vote that has helped swing so many seats, but youth activism and engagement with older people that's changed minds.
Are you more convinced of the mightiness of mums?
Mums are the best and I would encourage anyone to have honest and polite discussions with their parents about how terrible Tory policies – like housing benefits being cut for young people – really affect their lives and the lives of their friends. Yer ma loves you, and especially if they can't support you financially they don't want to see you without a safety net.
Damian, 32, East Sussex
VICE: How Tory was your mum?
Damian: She was extremely Tory – Tory with a capital T area. After the 2015 election I knew she was Tory and got upset at her after the results came out. We left it for ages.
What did you do to change her mind?
It was the NHS that convinced her. She brought up an NHS problem – that they were understaffed at the main hospital near them – and we talked about who was to blame. My brother has really needed the NHS recently. She agreed that it was the Tories' fault and that she'd think about it. She did eventually vote for them. Hooray for family relations.
I'm genuinely really proud of her. It's a vote that goes against the majority of her friends and the local area, and her boyfriend who is a massive, blazer-wearing, cricket playing, local village Tory. It also goes against what she's done in the past. In conclusion: mums are the absolute best.
Can for Corbyn with mum?
Will be buying her a drink, for sure.
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