There was something particularly odd about watching a UK vlogger on YouTube during the Brexit referendum, or an American one in the midst of the 2016 election. Not because there’s anything wrong with some light entertainment during major political events, but because these “ordinary people” were going about their lives without even mentioning the one thing that everyone IRL couldn’t stop talking about.
The obvious assumption is that there’s an element of cynicism in the decision to stay silent – voicing their political views could alienate viewers uninterested in politics as well as those on the opposite end of the political spectrum. One YouTuber I used to really enjoy revealed she was a die-hard royalist and honestly, as someone who will talk for hours about how vile the monarchy is, I can no longer enjoy her videos without thinking that she was contributing to the social stagnation of Britain.
But Alfie Deyes – one of the biggest names on British YouTube – threw caution to the wind yesterday when he revealed that he is “not a Tory”. This is literally the extent of his political rhetoric. No mention of who he voted for (or if at all), nothing about his views on social or economic issues, no word on Brexit or Theresa May or what he thinks of the state of the country. Quite simply, he is “not a Tory”, and he wants to make that clear.
Unfortunately, certain phrases, once unleashed onto the internet, become inexplicably comical. Think “Charlie bit me” or “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”.
Needless to say, social media is now delighting in mocking Deyes for his indignant proclamation. It probably doesn’t help that he made the statement in an apology video he was pressured into filming after his previous vlog – “The £1 a day challenge” – went viral for all the wrong reasons. His seemingly flippant attitude towards money and complete lack of awareness and sensitivity towards the real struggles of those less fortunate than him – namely the 3.9 million people living in persistent poverty in the UK alone – had left him coping with a deluge of negative online PR.
While it’s fair to say that Deyes is probably not particularly politically conscious, the mockery he’s experiencing seems to stem from the idea that he’s claiming to not be “a Tory” while sitting in the mansion he owns with his girlfriend Zoella, the YouTube superstar rumored to earn £50,000 per month, driving around in one of his numerous high end cars and complaining about not being able to buy his fancy coffee in the morning. The implication being that there’s something disingenuous about a rich person claiming to not support right-wing politics.
The idea that people vote in their own best interest has been disproven again and again. Look no further than the women who voted for Trump, a clear misogynist who has been seen on film time and time again responding to women only as sexual objects; or the small business owners who voted to leave the EU despite hordes of experts telling them it would have adverse effects on their business (or indeed the rest of the country who voted for the clusterf**k that is Brexit, but that’s an issue for another time).
But by far the clearest – and most baffling – example of this type of ideological voting is that of the working class who seem hell-bent on voting Conservative, despite the clear evidence that they are the hardest hit by the cruel cuts to public services used by the party to fund lower taxes for the rich.
Yet you don’t see the right publicly mocking working class supporters who claim “I am not a leftie”. No Conservative would tweet: “Lol at this person saying they aren’t a leftie when they live in a council estate – clearly they are!” The right has no qualms about getting voters and supporters – especially high-profile ones – wherever they can.
The reality is the left needs more supporters like Deyes, who despite what you may think about his videos has proven to be an incredibly successful and astute business owner. We cannot rely on George Soros to be the one billionaire on the planet funding left-wing causes, or the deeply problematic Alan Sugar to fly the flag for left-leaning entrepreneurs across the country. We need more people with huge reach, following, influence and – yes – money to not only call out the Tories for their policies but also pledge their support for the Labour Party.
It’s not surprising that there’s few of them around if this is how we treat them. I can’t imagine Deyes will ever touch on political issues again after the bashing he’s had on social media for the vaguest of comments, and that’s a real shame.
The left needs to be willing to welcome supporters of all walks of life, and reserve our snide, righteous anger for those who really deserve it – the ones claiming they actually are a Tory.