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Mhairi Fraser Headshot

Lessons for the Conservatives from the US of A

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Last night's presidential election was a hell of a lot closer than anyone expected it to be. Mitt Romney came in with a real chance of winning; the momentum gained from his unexpectedly competent performances in the debates, coupled with a widespread disappointment in Barack Obama's first term, carried him close enough to the finish line that nobody could confidently say last night who we would wake up to as president this morning.

But Obama won a second term, despite national exit polls showing that 60% of Americans counted the economy as their greatest concern, with the same number of the opinion that it isn't getting any better. Romney offered a different fiscal policy path, but he lost. And why? I'd bet my bottom dollar it's that his socially conservative policies alienated women and the gay community, and in turn any other social group that cares about social equality.

That's where I hope Cameron takes heed.

I'm a young, female Conservative with a big C. On the economy, defence and justice, I'm a small c - so far, so typical. But I don't think there is any place in modern society for discrimination against individuals on the basis of their skin colour, gender or sexual orientation, and that's where I hope the Conservative Party stands too - because if it doesn't, it won't have a place in modern Britain.

Socially, I'm fairly liberal, and the pool of people who aren't are declining with every generation. We no longer live in an overwhelmingly Christian society dictated by a fear of God's wrath - though I must say that I am by no means against religion, and would argue that some of the Christian principles which have influenced our social consciousness over the past few hundred years have been a real force for good. If churches and other religious institutions do not want to conduct gay marriages then they should not have to: church and state should be separated as much as possible anyway. But in this modern day and age, marriage is no longer a religious covenant, so discrimination that can trace itself back to religion should have no role in dictating policy relating to the union beyond two individuals. As a party that argues the case for the strength of families, I think we should be embracing long-term commitment between people of any orientation as a force for social stability.

And then there's abortion. I'm strongly in the 20-week time limit camp for ethical reasons, and would support a slight reduction in the time limit - allowing exceptions for medical reasons or in circumstances of abuse or rape. Similarly, 49% of women polled wanted a reduction, as opposed to only 30% wanting to keep it at 24 weeks. However, only half of those women in favour of a reduction wanted it to be set to lower than twenty weeks, and I can only imagine a fall to twelve weeks would see many more women jump ship. To have the newly promoted health minister stand up and voice his support for halving the limit... well, there's a reason why medical professionals called it an 'insult to women', because it completely separates female views from the control of the female body.

I don't think that Obama is anything to rave about. But in the end, Romney and the conservative far right let him win by refusing to align their social policy with the views of an enlightened modern population. The Conservatives need to be progressive and inclusive to survive the next election in the same way that Obama has done.

I'm a Conservative because I believe in ambition and hard work leading to success. I'm a Conservative because I believe that taxes should be low and that we should protect our country to as great an extent as we can. I'm a Conservative because I believe that centre-right policies are the best way to keep Britain as a main player on the international stage in years to come. So please, Cameron: make me a Conservative because I'm young, because I'm female, and because I believe in social equality too.