Jack White is a Conservative activist, and was Election Agent for South Shields in the recent General Election. He works for a small charity in Newcastle upon Tyne.
To most young people, our election strategy appeared nothing more than a political machine gun, fixated on only attacking the personal qualities of the Opposition leader. A leader who, let’s face it, lacks in leadership but makes up for in authenticity.
What’s more, the Labour Party offered something that young people could buy into; hence why they turned out in their droves to vote. While Corbyn promised free tuition fees and suggested he might wipe out all historical student debt, we offered a new vote on fox hunting.
Our answer to Labour should have been that young people care about more than just tuition fees. We should have celebrated our successes: like the fact that more young people than ever before are progressing onto higher education and apprenticeships, that unemployment is at record lows and we have a growing economy.
We should have been far more confident in explaining how we were going to make life better for young people. Yes, we need to win the economic arguments: in favour of free markets, low taxes and choice; against the recklessness of high taxes and state-controlled economies. However, we must focus on how we build up society as well. Just as David Cameron argued recently in the Evening Standard, “you have to win the argument in every generation.”
By young people, I also mean 20- and 30-somethings. How is it that it is only a Conservative government that can build enough affordable housing so that every young person can have a stake in our society? How is it that by having a strong economy we can also have a strong NHS? What will a Conservative government do so that no matter what your background, you can get ahead?
We offered young people diddly-squat in the General Election and we paid the price. Now is the time to rebuild our trust amongst young people. And there’s a lot of work to do.
There’s a long standing belief that as people age, they become more right-wing. There’s certainly evidence of an age-gap, and we’re further behind among the young than ever. The tipping point at which a person is now likely to vote Conservative from Labour is 47 – up from 34 at the start of the campaign, according to YouGov. We need to bury this belief.
This starts by re-energising our youth members. We need to make them feel welcome in our Associations and allow them to play their role. Seven weeks from now, it’ll be freshers’ week, and for Associations in university towns, it’s vital that we get students signed up as members. We need to be vocal about the opportunities that are available to them: attending Party Conference, running the Association’s social media and even running for elected office.
We need to extend our membership amongst 20- and 30-somethings too. We need to be shouting about why Labour’s policies would be disastrous for young people and call them out on their broken promises – such as their promise to wipe out of historical student debt, which turned out to be a lie, but which partially led to the ‘youthquake’ in the General Election.
We also need to look at the way that we communicate with young people. For example, during the General Election campaign the Labour Party was all over Snapchat. Snapchat is an app used by many millennials. Why weren’t we on Snapchat?
Linda Arkley, who’s running for Vice-President of the National Convention gets all of this and it’s exactly why I am backing her. Linda understands how we need to reconnect with our young members and through doing so, we can reconnect with young voters. Linda, with her strong voice, will work with her colleagues in the Party to help change it from the inside and for the better. You still have until Monday to vote, so if you can – please vote for Linda.