POLITICS

Young Tory MPs Form New Group To Stop Party Veterans Drowning Them Out

MPs who are under-35 are clubbing together to influence policies and presentation

18/10/2017 21:59 BST | Updated 19/10/2017 12:32 BST
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Mansfield MP Ben Bradley is bringing younger Tory MPs together.

Young Tory MPs are joining forces to oust veteran colleagues from the airwaves and have a greater say on policy in a bid win back the votes of under 40s.

The group – spearheaded by Mansfield MP Ben Bradley – is made up of Conservative MPs under 35 years old who are determined to reconnect with younger voters.

Bradley is planning to sign up all 20 Tory MPs who are under 35, and with such a slim Government majority the group could hold sway on a number of key votes.

As well as acting as a stress-test function for policies coming out of Conservative Central headquarters, the group will also put ideas back into the system and push forward spokespeople to engage with younger voters.

Programmes such as Radio 1’s Newsbeat will be targeted as way of getting the Tory message of “aspiration” out to a different demographic.

Speaking to HuffPost UK, Bradley said: “Some of the stuff we [the Conservatives] are coming out with has some really obvious problems and it would be good to kind of look at that beforehand.

“We do it with BME communities, there’s people who scrutinise specifically for that and it’s something I think we should be doing.”

The 27-year-old, who in June delivered the first ever Conservative victory in Mansfield, claimed that while established MPs respect his campaigning skills, “when it comes to the policy side of things and to actually proving that I have a brain in my head, I think a lot of people do go ‘Well he’s 27, what does he really know?’ - that’s quite a challenge.”

The Tories have been grappling with how to attract younger people since the June election saw the party lose millions of votes in that demographic to Labour.

Research carried out by YouGov after the vote claimed the age at which voters are more likely to vote Tory than Labour increased from 34 before the election campaign to 47 by polling day. 

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Paul Masterton is part of the group.

Paul Masterton, the 31-year-old who won East Renfrewshire from the SNP in June, is signed up to the group.

He claims there is “no silver bullet” to winning back younger voters, but getting the right “messaging” is vital.

Masterton told HuffPost UK: “If we’re serious about taking back the 25-40-year-olds, new graduates, young professionals, the young families age group we should be carrying with us, then people who are currently living that life need to be more involved in the process.

“I think you can’t have a situation where you have lots of very intelligent, very experienced and very good politicians but they’re in their 60s saying ‘This is what we need to do to win over people who are 35’ - actually, why not ask a Conservative MP who is 35.”

Masterton admitted the group was still in its “early days”, but added: “We just want to make sure that if we’re talking about a package of ideas aimed at this age group, it has actually been almost focused-test internally by MPs within that group first.”

Another MP backing the group is 30-year-old Andrew Bowie.

Like Masterson, he unseated an SNP MP in June, winning the constituency of West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine.

He told HuffPost UK the top of the Tory party are keen for new ideas, but it needed to be understood that younger MPs are key to getting them a fair hearing with the public.

Bowie said: “In order to understand young people you have got to speak to young people and hear from them and from their point of view.

“They come from a world now which is radically different in terms of how people interact with each other.”

Pointing to how many voters have a constant online presence, Bowie said: “There’s a tendancy not to understand that in the upper echelons of the party and I think it’s really important that they speak to people like myself and Ben who do get it.”

The party’s social media tactics were decried by one Tory MP, who said they felt too embarrassed to share some of the pictures they are sent by Conservative HQ.

They also claimed that if the young MPs group had been in place before the Tory party conference, it would have advised Theresa May against pumping a further £10billion into the Help to Buy scheme, and instead would have called for the cash to be invested in house building.

Other attempts to reconnect with the younger section of the party include a ‘Big Tent Ideas Festival’ in September organised by the Prime Minister’s policy chief, George Freeman.

Over 200 Conservative members turned out for the two-day event, but it is unclear what impact, if any, it had on internal party thinking.