Chloe Smith is the Member of Parliament for Norwich North. Binita Mehta is the sole Conservative Councillor in Watford and Chair of Hertfordshire Conservative Future.
We are two of our party’s youngest elected representatives, a councillor and an MP from different parts of the country and different backgrounds. We’re proud to be Conservatives. We want our party to win amongst young voters.
There are more people who have not yet voted for us than could ever leave the Conservative Party for UKIP. There is a centre-right opportunity to win the confidence of young voters who need to see that politics and the economy work for them. We must not concern ourselves only with the often older voters who are being wooed by Nigel Farage; the real prize is to make the Conservative Party the natural home for the next generation.
ConservativeHome readers know very well that in Britain today, we have a dwindling tribe of older people who use their vote and a growing camp of younger people who don’t. Britain’s problem is worse than elsewhere in Europe and the US. Russell Brand pops up on every corner with vacuous negativity to encourage young people not to vote. Some say: don’t bother with the young because of that.
But it would be wrong and stupid to turn our backs on the next generation. Politics has evolved and won’t turn back. It’s hard and competitive work, but politicians need to meet the phenomenon head on, and fast.
The Conservatives can win among young voters if we do that hard work.
Our opportunity is to avert an existentially large-scale disillusionment with traditional party politics by making our party the home for Generation Y.
We know that this generation looks to itself to take action, and looks to businesses, charities and action groups to achieve things. Younger people believe that actions that the state can take come a long way down the list, according to research by Demos.
We also know that today’s youngest voting generation least supports high welfare spending. Generation Y has strong interest in setting up businesses. And whilst you might expect a clash of generations at a time of scarce resources, the lack of such strife reflects strong family values. Welfare reform, enterprise and family: these are key Conservative values.
The polls show the opportunity. Ipsos Mori polling shows that support in Generation Y for the Conservatives has doubled since 2005. Although our party still lags Labour in this age group, Labour support has plateaued and Lib Dem support crashed.
Will UKIP take that opportunity instead of we Conservatives? It’s reported that they are going after the youth vote, but we are sceptical that our generation’s values are in line with UKIP’s core. Most young people hold an open-minded, global perspective and welcome new cultures. Ours is the party that is both socially and economically liberal.
We praise the Prime Minister for stepping up to this challenge. This week has seen the start of #LeadersLive, run by Bite the Ballot, the nation’s first-ever, online, live-stream discussions between the national party leaders and young voters in the UK.
It is essential to take the Conservative message to a new audience using new means. David Cameron is right to take part and we call on Conservatives across the country to back him in doing so.
We have a strong base from which to appeal to young people, including our policies of fixing the debt for them and helping first time buyers, as well as our campaigning ability. Team 2015 is vibrant and flexible and our digital presence is impressively led by Jim Messina and Grant Shapps’ team.
We can go further in our manifesto to back young people, and make our party the natural home for Generation Y.
So what you can do to be part of this? There’s no need to feel powerless in attracting the youth vote during the run up to this crucial General Election. Please join the fight to get young people informed, engaged and excited about politics and our party, to help us guarantee a majority government come May, with David Cameron continuing to lead us from Number 10.
Here are three easy ways you can help get the Conservative message across to young voters:
- Go out and meet them! Councillors, like Binita, can bring politics to life for young people by talking to sixth forms, colleges, universities and youth clubs, through which we can share what makes us Conservatives and emphasise the importance of performing your civic duty to vote. Even campaigners may be able to take these opportunities – be innovative and personable in your approach and empower young voters with the knowledge that politics affects a plethora of aspects in their daily lives. We all know as campaigners that taking time for a personal approach can be powerful, when politics can seem distant – and for this generation, the perceived distance is extreme.
- Use social media to share why you are a Conservative and what makes you believe in the government’s Conservative policies. Use Instagram video, YouTube and Twitter – even Snapchat. Unusual media will allow different audiences to understand your passion for our party – who knows how many you may persuade?
- Get involved with existing campaigns including following #LeadersLive, contributing as Chloe has to Sky TV’s Stand Up Be Counted and engaging with the initiative Binita helps run and has previously written about for Conservative Home: No One Ever Told Me About Politics. This campaign is directed towards people in their twenties and thirties who feel disengaged with politics, but are curious to learn more. Please actively support all of these campaigns and more; back the PM in the hard work of creating new Conservatives.