The Conservative Party’s announcement that it’s to investigate a group of Plymouth University students for wearing t-shirts carrying slogans criticising the NHS is a woeful overreaction, says Andre Walker. He calls on the Tory Party to have some backbone and give these teenagers a break. 

A few years ago I was asked to speak at an event for young conservatives interested in the media. As a complete non-entity, I was so obsessed with getting profile that I replied without even bothering to read anything more than the date, location and time.

I was horrified when moments after I had emailed my acceptance I read the second paragraph. It listed the title of my talk: “How Young Politicians Can Survive In A Social Media Age’. What a nightmare: I was tasked with teaching a group of teenage politicos how to ensure their embarrassing photos, videos and comments never came back to haunt them when they are 40.

In the speech, I rehashed the advice I always gave as a political press officer: if you’re in it for the right reasons you’ll be fine as long as you don’t get drunk and you always assume a journalist is taping you. My heart sank when every hand shot up at the end of my talk, they all wanted to ask the inevitable question: what do you do if your whole life has been recorded on social media?
My answer was simple: there is no protection, the only thing we can hope is that news outlets are responsible enough not to run photos of you in your underwear aged 18 when you are 50-years-old. But as it stands there are no guarantees that will happen.

Yesterday the Daily Mirror ran a front page with a group of Plymouth University Conservative Students wearing t-shirts filled with crass, offensive and embarrassing slogans. They were at a student party, they were not elected politicians, they were a bunch of kids. And yet every media commentator expressed their horror and disgust at these “terrible people”.

But now let’s be honest for a second what these kids have done has no impact on public life. And Nobody genuinely believes the students pictured are anything more than stupid immature kids trying to be funny.
So why is every media commentator taking to the TV and radio to express their outrage? Simple, they’re doing it for the same reason the Daily Mirror ran the story in the first place: they’re being paid to do it. They know it’s nonsense, they know the slogans are a joke, they know these kids are innocent, but they decided that destroying these kids lives was easier than getting a proper job!
The journalists involved are lazy, ignorant, parasites who know full well they pulled exactly the same stupid stunts when they were at university. And yet they chuckle to themselves and say ‘there for the grace of God go I’ without recognising that these young people’s downfall was not inevitable… It was their doing, their deliberate doing.

The Conservative Party has said it will investigate but in truth, it should have some backbone and stand up for these young people. Chairman Brandon Lewis should denounce the authors of this frontpage for seeking to abuse young people in politics rather than picking on people their own size.
And most of all Mr Lewis should remind himself that being a naive kid is forgivable, whereas getting paid to exploit that kid is not forgivable. And if he is worried about short-term headlines then he ought to know that in 20 years time it will be easier to dismiss an old newspaper than it will be to explain standing by as young people were bullied out of public service.

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