On Saturday evening, an article in The Independent began trending on Facebook. The piece, subtly titled “I’m a proud Tory. But with the left this belligerent and self-righteous, is it any wonder so many of us are ‘shy’?”, argued that the reason for the discrepancy between the polls throughout the election and the actual result was the unappreciated “shy tory voter”.
The article, written by the news editor for the London Tab Lewis Barber, clearly missed the irony that writing a prophetic article dismissing a huge section of the population is just a little bit belligerent and self-righteous itself (and I do appreciate the irony that I am responding in kind, but he started it).
Barber argues that Tory-bashing is so ubiquitous online that Conservative voters felt embarrassed to tell pollsters who they really intended to vote for. Again, there is a great deal of irony here that an article dismissing social media as the bastion of loony lefties has been shared over 50,000 times in less than two days.
This is by no means the only article to have claimed that the Shy Tory Factor was the main contributor to the shock election result. Pieces written by Conservative pundits in various right leaning newspapers, like The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail, have claimed that it’s the shy Tories wot won it.
These articles all miss a glaringly obvious point; if you’re too ashamed or embarrassed to admit who you really intend to vote for to an anonymous pollster who you will never see again, that says a lot more about you than it does your friends on Facebook.
Whilst it is fair to say that the Conservative Party can get a drubbing on the web, they are in no way suffering on their own. The party leader who suffered most at the hands of social media in this election was undeniably Ed Miliband, but where are the shy Labour voters? Ed may have secured a Milifandom towards the end of the election, but for most of the last few years you couldn’t go anywhere near social media without seeing a picture of him trying to eat a bacon butty.
Barber argues that students are particularly visceral in their anti-Tory agenda, but surely the party that was most unpopular with students in the last election was the Lib Dems.
Although it is undeniable that the election result was a surprise, it was within the margin of error for most polling organisations. If the shy tory phenomenon does have any genuine validity to it, perhaps their sheepishness has more to do with policies than online pressure.