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17th October 2023

Manchester Young Conservatives versus Manchester Labour Students: Head-to-head

Disclaimer: they refused to. Nevertheless, in the Opinion section’s new Contrarian Column, the Manchester Young Conservatives and Manchester Labour Students share their political views
Manchester Young Conservatives versus Manchester Labour Students: Head-to-head
Credit: Jacob Ainsworth @ The Mancunion

Disclaimer: they refused to actually go head-to-head.

This is the first Opinion section Contrarian Column; a space where we put two groups head-to-head and get to know them a bit better. For the very first edition of the Contrarian Column, we put the Manchester Young Conservatives and Manchester Labour Students against each other to discuss their recent party conferences, party stereotypes, and who in their parties stands out to them.

Do you think that there is a stigma attached to being a part of the Tory / Labour society?

Manchester Young Conservatives: “Yes, to quite a large extent. When I was doing the [Societies Fair], we were getting quite a lot… I don’t want to say abuse. Which was sort of what we expected, because we know how it is, we’re in the […] minority. I think if we were to sort of complain about that, we’d be slightly delusional.”

“Yeah, […] I think if you’re in the older generation, it’s probably the opposite. I think anyone to me that’s involved in politics as much as you are to get involved in a university-level, I think you’ve got to expect […] some sort of opposition.”

Manchester Labour Students: “There’s a lot of resentment towards mainstream politics at the moment – completely understandably. We hope to make a safe space for working class, marginalised and left-wing students to come together. The direction that the party has headed over recent years has been worrying. In particular we are outraged by the decision to abandon the party’s pledge to institute self identification. We believe this plays into transphobic narratives and will harm our trans comrades. But to leave the party and abandon our comrades who remain would be a failure of solidarity. We believe that the only way to ensure the party returns to its socialist and emancipatory roots is to fight for that from within.”

Do you think that your party has a strong or wide base of support amongst the student population here in Manchester? Is the support quite ‘behind closed doors?’

Manchester Young Conservatives: “No, no, it doesn’t. That’s pretty, pretty clear. The extent to which that is true? I don’t know, because a lot of people are apolitical. Do we know if they’re more sympathetic to us or the Labour Party? You know, who’s to say.”

“There’s no real urge for people to join a group like us, especially with everything that’s going on outside.”

Manchester Labour Students: “To some extent – most students support Labour, even if they don’t campaign for the party. The Tory government has actively worsened the lives of students through budget cuts, suppression of unions, the cost of living crisis, and continued marketisation of education. This has encouraged political consciousness, and a lot more people have moved to the left as a result. We had a great turnout at our most recent meeting, so we hope that’s a sign of further increasing support!”

How did the recent conferences in Manchester go? Was it a success? What do you think about the protests and general unwelcome atmosphere?

Manchester Young Conservatives: “I thought it was a success. I mean, I had quite a good time, […] it was good fun. I think people have quite a misconception of how the party conference works. It’s not all you know, we go and line up and then listen to Jeremy Hunt speak. There’s so much going on.”

“This was my first one […] but I thought it was a lot better than I expected. And it wasn’t just politicians there as well. I mean, I saw so many journalists, who were also sort of left-wing journalists who they’re willing to speak to us willing to engage in a conversation. You know, that’s what I really enjoyed better, […] that was actually quite civilised. And it was very organised.”

Manchester Labour Students: “Most of our committee headed along to the Conference in Liverpool, and we were able to meet Labour students from up and down the country! It was great to see the leadership setting out a more clear proposal for what Labour would do in power. For example the commitments to building more council housing and getting rid of zero hour contracts. But we think the party can go further.”

Do you believe that you fulfil the stereotype of your party in any way?

Manchester Young Conservatives: “No, I don’t. My school didn’t have a debating society or anything, my parents didn’t pay for me to go to school. I sort of got into politics myself. I wouldn’t say I fulfil a stereotype. And in our society, there’s not many people who do either. So we have a lot of international students in our society. Not many people I can think of who would sort of be a classic sort of Tory, in that sense.”

Manchester Labour Students: “For over 100 years the Labour Party has been the party of the working class. Personally, I remember going to the Job Centre with my Dad during school holidays after he was made redundant as a youth worker. But our members come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and we find that stereotypes about political affiliation are harmful, and not conductive to organising.”

Where are we most likely to find members of your party in Manchester? Which spaces do you frequent? Is there a go-to meeting point?

Manchester Young Conservatives: “I mean, our socials probably. I mean, we represent, not just as in we have members, not just at the University of Manchester, but anybody in the Manchester area can come along to our stuff. So we’re Manchester Young Conservatives, rather than just University of Manchester Conservative Society. So you have members from Man Met and from the city generally. So we’re a sort of wide diverse bunch.”

Manchester Labour Students: “Everywhere! Manchester has a strong socialist and Labour movement tradition and its presence is felt wherever you go – The Trade Union Congress was founded in this city! The People’s History Museum and the Working Class Movement Library are two examples of where you can find this history. As for the modern Labour voter, you’ll find us on every street in the city!”

Which member of your party do you agree with the most? And which one are you most like?

Manchester Young Conservatives: “I like Douglas Ross. Because he is the leader of the Scottish Conservatives. And I’m Scottish. He represents my values to a T. He is working class […] because his first job was […] helping his family farm. He knows what it’s like to be in the rural side of Scotland, which is what the Conservatives seem to target. I’ll just very briefly touch point on the big fan of Tom Tugendhat. He ran to be leader of the Conservatives, and last year alongside Rishi Sunak, and I think he should have got it. He’s got experience. He worked in the British Army […] He was one of the biggest people to criticise Boris Johnson, which isn’t like he is not afraid of them ironing out the creases in the Conservative Party.”

“My local MP […] Robert Largan. He’s the MP for the High Peak. So I’ve seen him since he got elected in 2019. I knew him before that. [I] helped out a little bit on his campaign, he works incredibly hard for his local area. He’s been sort of independent-minded. He’s not always towed the party line.”

Manchester Labour Students: “The party is a broad church and we believe it is necessary to have lots of different opinions and views within the party. Whilst there isn’t a particular individual that we hold above all others, we often find that members of the Socialist Campaign Group in Parliament best fit our views as a committee. Locally, we have a great relationship with the MP for Manchester Gorton, Afzal Khan – who readily makes himself available to students – and as well as the city councillors for Fallowfield and Rusholme!”


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