Identity crisis- The Conservatives and the 18-24s | Cameron Bradbury

Another election. Even the notion fills my heart with a sense of unique dread that can hardly be articulated. Never before have such auspicious beginnings ended in disappointment and despair as the 2017 General Election. Speaking from my own discussions, I have found activists, politicians and staffers are united in their resolve – to avoid another election at all costs!

Picture it, North Norfolk June 2017, Baroness Evans and myself driving hopelessly around the sticks, attempting to locate a single property which, for some reason god only knows, the owners thought would be fun to give a name instead of a house number. Oh, the joys of targeted campaigning. Anyone involved in politics will know; elections are both thrilling and passionate, yet frustrating and emotionally draining.

The purpose of this article is not to analyse the 2017 elections; for better or worse, 2017 is in the past. What concerns me is the Conservative Party’s prospects for the future. As I was scrolling through twitter I saw an election map which really did make me reach for the gin! This election map showed the political landscape of the UK if only 18-24 year-olds could vote. To put it succinctly, the map was redder than Karl Marx’s boxer shorts.

 

Now, you may scoff. You may simply brush it off and say something like “typical millennials” or “the youth aren’t our natural voters” or “they’ll become Tories with age”. Or like me, you may actually be quite concerned.

Whilst I do believe as people get older, earn their own money and gain more experience of the real world, people are more likely to begin to lean Conservative. But in order to convince young people to switch to Conservative long term in a genuine way, we must to have something to offer. We need a renewed sense of passion, dynamism, and a vision which will make people want to vote Conservative.

The young should be the natural constituency for the party which prides itself as being the party of aspiration! Maggie understood this aspiration, and in both 1979 and 1983 the Conservatives polled higher than Labour among the 18-24s. This is, sadly, a distant memory.

Whilst having a remarkable propensity for being at wreath laying ceremonies at the wrong time, Corbyn is also scarily proficient at connecting with younger voters.

Corbyn’s Labour exists in a swirling vortex of left wing McCarthyism- where even the notion of being to the right of Stalin (or in McDonnell’s case Mao), has members branded closet Tories, traitors, or worse – Blairites. Despite the complete toxicity and dysfunction of Corbyn led Labour, a large chunk of the populace, especially 18-24 year-old voters, still see him as a credible Prime Minister.

Some of the people in the Conservative party I have spoken to are resigned to the fact that the youth “just won’t vote for us” but I believe this is completely the wrong attitude to have- such pessimism will for sure sink us in the next election, whenever it is held.

We have to face facts: Corbynism does have a USP. It does have a comprehensive political vision which, quite truthfully, offers fundamental change. In addition to this, his fanatical followers have transformed this aging career politician into a cult figure, whose principles and commitment to equality are – no matter evidently preposterous – considered irreproachable.

The fundamental pillars of Corbynism can be comfortably refuted if one takes five seconds to actually look at the proposals up close. Be its inherent economic illiteracy, avaricious nationalisation of industry or Dianne Abbott’s novel proposal to pay police officers 2p per year. However, the fundamental point remains: Labour are better at getting their narrative out in the public sphere and on social media.

Cynically, I would argue that politics comes down to how well you sell your message. You can hold sincere firm beliefs but ultimately, you’ve got to work to sell that message. Corbynism is an easy sell to younger voters, it is coherent and dangerously simplistic. But, as I keep coming back to; it offers a vision, it offers change and some people genuinely believe it offers hope.

18-24 year-old voters have not experienced a socialist government in the UK. Corbyn and Momentum have sold a vision of UK socialism that is “just like Scandinavia”, but Corbyn’s economics combined with the thuggish behaviour of some momentum activists betrays the true ending of Corbynist socialism which is more Venezuela than Scandinavia.

The Conservative Party’s greatest single responsibility is to defend the UK from socialism. I welcome the action that has been taken since Brandon Lewis has become Party Chairman: he has greatly improved our online presence and increased our digital reach beyond our traditional means of communication but we must do more! We are starting behind the Labour party in this regard.

We need to offer a dynamic, Conservative vision that gives younger voters reason to vote for us. To be crystal clear, that does not involve throwing away taxpayers’ money on extravagant Government funded freebies or going down the road of Rees-Moggian social conservatism. Both of these roads would lead to irreparable electoral disaster. We cannot out-spend Labour, nor should we want to, and, to be frank, social conservatism can be equally as authoritarian and damaging to a free society.

Capitalism, individualism, home ownership- we need again to become, unashamedly, the party of success and aspiration. Whilst I’m sure policies like the energy cap and sugar tax come from places of good intention – nanny statism is never in vogue.

Like I said above, we cannot out-Labour Labour, they will always unnecessarily extend the state better than we can and these policies are not giving people any good reasons to vote Conservative. Let us find our inner tax cutters and fire up our inner state shrinkers and put some policies on the table which will actually help people unlock their own potential.

Under May’s leadership, the Government have committed to raising the tax personal allowance to £12,500 by 2020. A typical basic rate taxpayer will pay £1,075 less income tax than in 2010 – meaning they are taking home more of what they earn. 4 million of the lowest paid workers have been taken out of income tax altogether – this is all welcome but I plead – more tax cuts please!

I do fear, however, that the voices of the tax raisers are growing louder, and we should resist the urge to go down that route as we are at risk of slowly losing our political identity.

Whilst Corbyn’s Labour have transformed themselves into the party of the champagne socialist, metropolitan elite – Brexit provides us with the perfect opportunity to really take the fight to Labour and reclaim our place as the party for freedom, for real, good old fashioned liberalism.

This article is not supposed to be some veiled attack on the current Government, in many ways, and you may sit aghast when I write this: Theresa May has done a better job at appealing to traditionally non-Conservatives and actually getting them to vote Conservative than any leader since Maggie.

Maggie was in the business of liberation, she was a visionary who appealed, and I do loathe this expression but there is no better way to put it, to the ordinary people in the street. Maggie understood people’s aspirations. In order for us to begin to reconnect with the 18-24 year-old voters and win a stomping great majority in the next election we have to rekindle that spirit of enterprise, freedom and individual destiny.

I have rambled on for a bit, and most of you will have lost interest and gone back to scrolling through twitter, but I will just finish with the following. The potential that if only 18-24 year-olds voted would result in Corbyn’s Labour gaining 600 seats should be genuinely terrifying. Socialism has failed everywhere it has been tried and Labour seem intent on bringing us back on this godforsaken roundabout to have another go.

There should be no out of reach demographics for the Conservative party, our message of individual freedom and aspiration crosses all divides; Rich/Poor, Gay/Straight, Black/White – so why are we performing so badly with the 18-24 year-old voters? We have lost our way and we simply must do better, because to be quite frank – red doesn’t suit me – or the UK!

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