The Conservative Party’s dilemma on economical & social liberalism with young people | Chris Rose
In the latest YouGov survey, Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity has plummeted by 45 points in the last 18 months, fueled by his ambiguous stance on Brexit. It was inevitable after a year on ineffective opposition to antisemitism within his own party and incapability to defend himself when faced with previous words said or actions he chose to do. By now, we know that Jeremy Corbyn’s past does not make him fit for office, but a lot more needs to be done for disillusioned young voters to feel enthusiastic enough to join the Conservative party.
The Conservative Party has been stagnant in its mission to attract younger voters; right now it is in danger of being seen as the party which “stole our future” to a lot of 18-25 year-olds by (rightfully) pursuing leaving the European Union.
Like some of my generation, I do not know how to use a lawnmower, however, my generation are the most enthusiastic about technological advancement and the most daring with business entrepreneurship – there has been a phenomenal 85% rise in the number of businesses started by 18-24 year olds since 2015. The Conservative Party ought not to be shy when it comes to defending the positive outcome of neoliberalism, not just in Britain but on a global scale. It should be our unapologetic message to young people.
I believe that radical reforms to maintenance loans and housing are two major issues the Conservatives should use to help young people; many people from my generation will want to buy a house and pay for utilities which won’t drain our bank accounts. Liz Truss and other prominent Conservatives have put forward realistic ideas to solve our housing problem. The Conservatives should make it easier for more competition to enter the free markets for a better cost to quality ratio, using places such as Germany as an example.
I’m not angry at young people for believing that both the Liberal Democrats and Labour could scrap tuition fees; evidently, it’s not realistic, as the Liberal Democrats demonstrated in 2010. Political parties should start to be honest with young people who will attend University, a great opportunity for the Conservatives to focus on issues around maintenance loans which actually affects students more during their time on campus.
Maintenance loans are assessed on the assumption that your parents are able or even willing to make up the difference if their combined income are above a certain threshold. I received very little maintenance loan, but thankfully my parents could help. This is not always the case for others: reforms to make it a fairer assessment would be much more beneficial to young people than false promises to scrap or cut tuition fees.
I’m aware that attitudes towards social issues are a big factor in how young people will perceive the Conservative Party. Before I was eligible to vote, the same sex adoption debate had already been concluded. With even younger voters than myself, the same sex marriage debate had already been concluded by the time they were eligible to vote. To my generation established equal rights is the only modern-day Britain they have known, a dilemma which makes it difficult to attract young people as the discussions around marginalised groups seems to be constantly and rapidly changing.
To briefly attempt at where I personally stand on social issues, it would be as someone who would have been classified as socially liberal in previous decades, and yet today, classified as somewhat more socially conservative – but without the authoritarian streak.
Evidently, the Conservative Party is more socially liberal than when it was during Iain Duncan Smith’s leadership, and from a strategic point of view that’s good. I was content with how the same sex marriage debate concluded, granting freedoms to individual citizens whilst allowing traditional religious institutions the choice to opt in or opt out. The state should not be telling either side what is wrong or right.
Individual freedoms and liberties whilst respecting traditions was a winning modern Conservative position. However, it’s losing its balance to stand firm on a position which hasn’t already been approved by the Labour party. This is a negative factor, since many young people will choose to vote Labour if it’s noticeable that the Labour Party are setting the narrative on social issues.
Conservatives feel haunted by Enoch Powell, Section 28 and Monday Club, even to the point where they have begun to feel compelled to go along with every single passing fashion rather than stating what they think is right or wrong.
Understandably it’s no surprise that so many young people dislike Enoch’s speech, including myself. Conservative MP’s ranging from Justine Greening to Jacob Rees-Mogg also disagree with it, so his views aren’t represented in the Conservative Party. There are a smaller number of members who do like Enoch Powell for his views on other issues as well as his infamous rivers of blood speech. In the spirit of freedom of speech, it’s right that they have a place in the Conservative Party, however, no credible Conservative youth movement will place Enoch Powell’s face in the advertisement campaign for obvious reasons.
It’s an ongoing battle I’m fully aware of in a changing society of trying to find a balanced view on complicated social issues. I believe under David Cameron the Conservatives implemented good effective policies to open the doors for the most disadvantaged people to aspire and enjoy individual freedoms and liberties. Evidently the 18-25 vote share in the 2015 General Election increased as a result of this. If we don’t think carefully about how to get this message across, Conservatives must make it clear that being modern doesn’t mean abandoning meritocracy so that 50% of the cabinet are females, 20% are BAME, or completely obliterating pronouns.
It’s very important that young Conservatives, or the Conservative Party as a whole doesn’t get sucked too deep into an overblown culture war with hard left activists. Of course, it’s important to call out Antifa-linked activists anarchists attacking Jacob Rees-Mogg, however, we must also remember that a lot of young people who are ideologically opposed to Rees-Mogg also strongly condemned those actions. It’s also worth noting that a lot of young people can’t stomach the views of Novara Media.
As a pro-Israel, pro-life, fairly Eurosceptic Conservative from an evangelical Christian family background, I can assure you that my views were in the minority on University campus. On the whole, the good majority of debates with fellow students were constructive, never personal and in a few cases even eye opening. It’s only the odd time you’ll come across a student who can’t fathom that young people like myself actually existed in [insert year here]. If a culture war gets too much attention it could end up alienating potential young voters who feel attacked by blanket statement claims about young University students.