Young voters are “bored of Brexit” and are more likely to be put off voting Tory if the party is seen as socially conservative than by its commitment to leaving the EU, Liz Truss has said.
The chief secretary to the Treasury said the Conservatives had to “communicate our message better” to appeal to the younger generation.
“The way we are going to inspire people is by talking about those ideas even if they argue with us, even if we don’t like them, it is slightly about being a bit disagreeable and a bit offensive sometimes and being prepared to offend some people,” she said.
Speaking to members of the liberal conservative Bright Blue think-tank in a pub in south London on Tuesday evening, Truss said her experience of talking to students revealed Brexit was not the main barrier to them voting Tory.
The South West Norfolk MP said they told her: “To be honest we are bored of Brexit, it’s not really affecting our lives. What we really care about is crime, we are really concerned about things acid attacks in London.”
Asked if Brexit was damaging the Tory brand with younger voters, Truss added: “I would say more that it’s being seen as not socially liberal that’s more of an issue.
“I think we need to make the case, and this is my point, we need to get through Brexit, and make the case that we do believe in those values that not just appeal to youth in urban areas but also appeal to my constituency in South West Norfolk.”
Truss campaigned for ‘Remain’ during the referendum but has since said she would now vote ‘Leave’.
She added that voters in her seat “want to live in a free country” and “don’t want to live in a Corbynist-Marxist state”.
“I dispute this idea we can’t win Mansfield and Battersea, or we have to choose between Norfolk and Nottingham, we don’t,” she said.
“These ideas have a universal appeal. We need to positive about them. Not defensive and on the back foot.”
Truss also warned there was “no gratitude in politics” as people “never vote on the basis of what you already done for them, they vote on what they think the future is going to be”.
She added: “No one successfully makes the case for the status quo.”
Ministers are predicting a “wipeout” of flagship Tory councils in the local elections this year, in part due to the sizeable ‘Remain’ vote in the capital, amid fears that the party has failed to prepare for a fresh battle with Jeremy Corbyn.
The gloomy forecasts came as a senior backbencher told HuffPost UK that Theresa May would inevitably face intense pressure to quit if the party lost key town halls.