By John White, April 2020
Being an open Conservative member at school is like being an elected politician already; it comes with is weekly blows of grilling’s and hatred. I think fellow pupils see it as a chance to ridicule me in front of other people but are taken aback when I laugh along with it.
I’m a normal teenager. I occasionally sleep in late on school days. I have a girlfriend, and I binge watch Netflix series. People don’t expect me to be like that because I’m a tory. They just picture me being the stereotypical, rich stuck-up toff. Some people can’t understand that you can be a tory on the one hand and a teenager on the other. Whether you’re conservative, labour or SNP, you’re out to have a good time and a laugh and politics has nothing to do with it.
Glasgow East was once on the political map for being one of the safest Labour seats. It was a stronghold for Labour since the mid-1930’s all the way until the 2008 Glasgow East by-election which seen a drastic switch to the SNP. But Glasgow east is also on the map for its poverty. More than 30% of children in Glasgow east are ranked as being in poverty, and one in five people aged between 16 and 64 are on out-of-work benefits. People might not have a lot of money here, but the community is fantastic. People are kind and theirs so much warmth.
Living in an impoverished area, and attending a Roman Catholic secondary school often means people pose sectarian questions or slurs against me.
Since my involvement in politics, I haven’t always been in the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. In fact, I campaigned for the Labour party for a month or so. But I knew there was more parties out there. So, I laid them all out flat and joined up the Tories as soon as I realised, they were echoing the policies I believe in, unlike Labour they were firm in supporting the Union- which is a huge factor for me among many other things.
The failures of the SNP were one of the main reasons I got involved in Politics, under their governance, our world-famous education system is in decline; our status on the international PISA rankings in maths and science is at its worst ever level. Fewer subjects are available to students. 2000 fewer teachers are in our schools than when the SNP took office. A greater percentage of applicants from England and Europe are successful in securing places at Scottish universities than are Scottish students. Most of the SNP’s own waiting time targets have consistently been missed.
I recently got the opportunity to meet The Prime Minister, and leader of the Conservative party- Boris Johnson. It was on Brexit day itself. Although I didn’t support him in the leadership election, I understand we must unite behind him to continue to make our party credible.
I posted a modern-day ‘selfie’ on my Facebook page and was subject to a huge peer backlash. Fellow pupils at my school began sharing it with nasty comments, like ‘mad how much I could batter him’ or ‘reject [Scotland flag emoji]’ As the night went on though, it got worse and worse. Pupils at my school began sharing it saying things like ‘kill kill kill’ and ‘Die ya tory fag’.
This is beyond unacceptable, and I don’t think people understand the affect comments like these can have on people. My anxiety was already pretty bad at the time, giving me high points and low points when I least expected it. But to receive messages from people wishing that I was dead was another level. All I could think about that weekend was what I had to face in school on Monday. If I’m honest I was Scared. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I felt like locking myself in my room and never coming out. The thought of walking into school and not knowing what could happen at any point because of my politics and/or one picture posted online.
To say senior leadership in my school was supportive would perhaps not be true. My modern studies teacher explained that ‘success was the biggest revenge’ I needed. So ‘not coming to school shouldn’t even be an option’. My Admin/IT teacher ensured the pupils were dealt with, as did my pupil support teacher and CC. My head of year… perhaps not.
In Glasgow east we are family and friends, neighbours and workmates. We’re not the super-rich or the privileged inheritors of trust-funds. We come in all shapes and sizes. Different backgrounds, different religions, different cultures and different family types. We represent all the difference and diversity that makes Glasgow east strong and vibrant. But I believe we are united by one thing. We want a fair chance. The opportunity to get on in life. To make our own way, and perhaps our own mistakes.
A hand up, not a hand out – That’s why I joined the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party.
By John White, April 2020