If you are looking for a sure fire way to totally undermine a highly legitimate argument, then it seems the slinging of popular breakfast items is a good start. Why not follow it up by spitting on a journalist or perhaps indulging in a hint of name calling? “Tory scum” seems to be the phrase of choice among a small portion of anti-Conservative protesters outside the recent conference in Manchester.

As one unsuspecting Tory got pelted with an egg, I was pelted with an utter frustration at the shortsighted and irresponsible manner in which these protesters chose to exercise their liberties. It is difficult to conceive of a less productive approach to gaining support and achieving the ambitions of a huge number of dissatisfied people.

What is more, their timing is impeccably poor. The left of British politics has been gifted something truly wonderful. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party is something that many of a left persuasion would have never dreamt of. The task ahead of Mr Corbyn was never going to be an easy one; the golden goose that a number of angry protesters have handed the Murdoch press won’t make it any easier.

Sweeping statements about the entirety of the protest, which was almost universally peaceful, will now be made and offer yet more fuel to the anti-left fire that already burns so brightly.

“The task ahead of Mr Corbyn was never going to be an easy one; the golden goose that a number of angry protesters have handed the Murdoch press won’t make it any easier”

It is not just that irresponsible indulgence in thuggery is entirely counterproductive, it also troubling on a more personal ideological level. To me, the political left should always hold dear the fundamental principle of compassion. To protest against uncompassionate Tory policy using violent, abusive methods seems to be a total contradiction of everything that being a lefty is all about. The moral high ground is much harder to take when you are screaming every profanity under the sun and using eggs as projectile weaponry.

There was hope, fleeting as it may have been, now that the left has a mainstream voice, that such behavior could have been avoided. Also that Corbyn’s own plea to protesters to keep it all about policy might have materialized. But alas, it seems that some people really do never grow up and, like one badly behaved pupil stopping all the good kids from getting to watch a video at the end of the lesson, they ruin it for everyone else.

To be clear, I sympathize whole heartedly with many of the arguments being made. My issue is with the methods used. The painfully obvious short sightedness leads me to question the true motivations of the fringe group of protesters. If they really were serious about trying to make change happen then surely they would realise that their time would be far better spent trying to paint the left as the positive, intelligent and progressive movement that it truly is.

“To protest against uncompassionate Tory policy using violent, abusive methods seems to be a total contradiction of everything that being a lefty is all about”

The same applies for any anarchists present at the demonstration. If there is one political belief that is in dire need of being better publicly understood, it is anarchism. Widely seen as a worship of pure chaos, violence and the Sex Pistols, it will take mature arguments to dispel these preconceptions. Again, counterproductive seems to be the order of the day.

So the cause is undoubtedly a strong one. Tory austerity is uncompassionate and ideologically driven; the upcoming Trade Unions bill threatens to undermine a basic right of the workers of our country and the cuts to tax credits will bring poverty to yet more people in a society that is already painfully unequal.

In light of this, my message to all those others not happy with what we got at the last election is as follows: Let’s be an example of the kind of society we want. Let’s think seriously about what will actually contribute to positive change (hint, eggs and name calling will most certainly not.) Let’s not suppress those who hold different opinions with violence and insults, that isn’t democracy. And above all, let’s decisively prove that the Tories already have sufficient egg on their faces and we need not add to it. Perhaps then we can make some real progress.

Ed Matthews

Image: Sheila via flickr

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