In a town as small as that of St Andrews, you can’t always be too picky with who your friends are. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my friends, and fully consider them to be some of the best people in the world, but we don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to politics.
I grew up in a family of staunch socialists, and would be ashamed to vote anything other than Labour. I liked Jezza C before he was cool, and tweet angrily whenever the Conservatives propose another (what I consider to be abhorrent) social policy. In my life before coming to university, I was lucky in that almost all of my close friends shared my political views (quite a feat considering I come from The Cotswolds, which is notorious Tory territory), so coming to St Andrews was quite a shock to the system; many of the people who I now consider to be my closest friends voted conservative in the last UK General Election.
Negotiating friendships with people with different political opinions can be tricky, so here a few fail-safe rules to give you all a hand.
- Try to avoid discussing politics too much. Make sure you have lots of other things in common, and make an effort to find out more about them beneath the politics. In general, it can be easier to leave your politic arguments to be had with randoms on a night out.
- When things do turn political try to keep the conversation on things you actually have in common. Did you both vote for Brexit, or are you in agreement that Donald Trump is the worst thing to happen to America? You can still agree on certain elements of politics, even if you vote differently.
- Don’t try to change their views: yes, you may think their voting habits are abhorrent, but at the end of the day, you have to respect their views. How would you feel if someone was constantly badgering you to vote a different way?
- Equally, remain open minded, don’t put them in a box; just because your Tory voting grandfather is pro-life, is doesn’t necessarily mean that your Tory friend is. Ask questions about their views and why they hold them, without starting a debate. Show them that you’re interested in their thoughts, and that you respect them.
- Stick to your guns! If you’re right wing and you find yourself spending all your time with liberals, consider joining something like the Conservative and Unionist Society, in order to make your views feel more validated. It can be disheartening to constantly feel that you’re the only one thinking in a certain way.
My final, and most important tip is this: Though it is definitely possible to have friendships with your political opposites, you should probably avoid entering into a relationship with one. Your partner is there to share your life with you, and on the fundamentals of life you should be fully agreed. You don’t want to find out later down the line that life together is horribly difficult because of your political incompatibility.