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Labour Does Not Have a Right to the Youth Vote

11/05/2015 10:54 BST | Updated 08/05/2016 10:59 BST

In an election characterised by perhaps the most vacuous campaigning we will ever see, it is heartening to see people actually engaging with the policies on offer, and to see constituency after constituency vote for - in my opinion - a rational set of policies for the economy as a whole and not succumb to the class war politics that we so shamefully saw on the final day of campaigning, with Cameron's days at the Bullingdon Club used to imply that he actually only cares about rich people or that he hasn't changed since then, both of which are allegations that you would expect to be supported by evidence - of intent, not simply cherry-picking the impact of certain policies - but which was tellingly not forthcoming.

It was also pleasing to see what appeared to be Labour's principal strategy to try to woo the youth (not 'yoof'; you just look like you can't spell) vote - namely treating the entire election as a massive social media campaign - fail to excite the country at large, and presumably large sections of the youth (and student) vote, a presumption perhaps strengthened by the amount of Lib Dem seats lost to the Conservatives. I'm sure I speak for more than just myself when I say that it is incredibly patronising to assume that 'digital natives' care more about Ed Miliband's looks than actual policy for instance, and indeed the continued assumption that young people are supposed to be left-wing; although many are, young Conservatives exist in large numbers too, and should not be required - as we often appear to be - to justify not being left-wing purely because of our age or educational status.

The battle for the most patronising attempt to woo young people to Labour is surely between two hamfisted publicity stunts, namely Ed Miliband's courting of Russell Brand, and the 'Liar Liar' campaign of the NUS. In the former case, using a vacuous designer leftist who didn't believe in voting until it was convenient to do so (or inconvenient when you consider this epiphany occurred after the deadline for voter registration) firstly assumes that young people care more about the opinions of celebrities than the battle of manifestoes from politicians, and secondly that we should all desire for some vacuous concept of revolution over actual, concrete and achievable policy. Never once does it consider that young people are able to recognise Brand for what he is politically: the political equivalent of Bernard Williams's parasitic amoralist.

In the latter case, this firstly showed yet again that the NUS does not speak for students, and that it should be stripped of its self-declared right to be our 'definitive national voice'. The short-termism of the campaign was matched only by its misguided appeal to the past over the future, firstly encouraging young people not to engage with the future - for which the Lib Dems ironically presented a very youth-friendly manifesto, notably on mental health - but secondly to ignore similar pledge-breaking by Labour, the latter being unsurprising when we consider that the NUS pretends that we all support Labour at every opportunity - which must be completely unrelated to the fact that the NUS used to serve as a conveyor belt for future Labour MPs (though it may not anymore as successive NUS sabs get further and further down the rabbit hole). Thankfully, we can see that this idea was rejected, both by the success of Clegg himself and by the amount of Lib Dem seats going to the Conservatives over Labour.

Before going on to discuss the various ad hominems being thrown around by the Tories' opponents, I will stop to deal with one implication already being made, namely that Conservative voters must support the 'Snooper's Charter'. As a human being who has never and will never be involved in preparing acts of terrorism - regardless of my status as a 'digital native' - the policy disgusts me and many other young Conservatives that I know, and yet I voted Conservative firstly because the absolutism of supposing that a voter supports every party policy is misguided; if it were so we would have thousands of parties all of whom were getting elected. Instead, we must ultimately choose the party that we trust to run the country in general warts and all, before attempting to remove those warts after the election which - as concerned citizens - we are surely entitled to do. Secondly, it is notable that very little discussion of the idea featured in the prominent parts of the campaign. To be clear, the Conservatives were not returned on a platform of imposing the 'Snooper's Charter', but one of managing the economy and giving an EU referendum; these, among others, were the prominent issues on which this election was fought and to pretend that this gives an unqualified mandate for the most obscure and divisive parts of a manifesto is a manifested lie. Thirdly, I am cautiously optimistic that the Bill will either not be reintroduced or killed precisely because of its unpopularity, and its divisive stance within the broad church of the party, something which will hopefully be made more likely by the fact of a very slim majority.

This is but one of the ideas which all Conservative voters, not just the young ones, have been blindly accused of supporting, although at least this one has some grounding in official policy. What does not is the idea that Tory voters support the suffering of working-class people, an idea surely rebutted, for instance, by the acquiring of working-class seats such as those in Leeds to the Conservatives unless our student left leaders and their idols believe the working classes are intrinsically stupid so voted to kill themselves over five years. This is just one example of the logical fallacies being used by a Left that is far from gracious in defeat, and increasingly open in its contempt for the regular voter, never stopping to consider that maybe voters can make their own minds up, and maybe that they, rather than the voters they disagree with, might be wrong. In their quest to portray all Conservatives as rich heirs and heiresses starting their day with a line of cocaine washed down with a glass of orphan tears, coupled with ad hominem after ad hominem against their opponents, the Left only continues to discredit itself in defeat.

Ultimately, I believe that we have seen two great and pleasant surprises: firstly, the election of what I believe to be the best government in the circumstances, and secondly the continued ability of the public to make up its own mind and not to be swayed by vacuous social media wars and the increasing emotional blackmail and shaming that generated so many shy Tories in the first place. My only wish in the immediate aftermath is that the Tories' opponents, rather than arrogantly assume they had a divine right to win which was frustrated by the evil and the stupid, actually learn from their loss.