'If you are not a liberal at 20, you have no heart. If you are not conservative by 40, you have no brain'. The radical idealism of young people never changes and Winston Churchill's quote still remains as relevant as ever 70 years on. One only needs to look around at the number of nose piercings, old man jumpers and duffle coats walking around university campuses to know that generally speaking, students lean to the left.
If I chance upon the rare conservative student, when they express right wing views I unfairly and yet automatically write an imaginary post-it note entitled 'FASCIST' and stick it to their forehead. Young conservatives are treated with extreme suspicion, as certain stereotypes of being the most upper of the upper middle class and possessing a complete lack of social responsibility kick in at the mere sight of a string of pearls.
There is, I believe, though a simple reason why young people turn to left wing politics. It is the hope of many students to have an impact on the world and its people. We all want to be 'someone' and effect positive change. Left wing ideology, far more than conservatism, facilitates this zeal. The left is politics for the masses, it has the interest of the people at its heart and consequently it is easier to affect mass change through it.
Conservatism on the other hand is the politics of the individual, protection of your own interests. But as a student that essentially consists of a half-eaten packet of Jaffa Cakes and a formerly expensive dictionary. You are a liberal at 20 because you can be but Churchill is right in that eventually lefties grow up. It is extremely difficult to maintain an 'equality for all' mantra when you have a child struggling in school because the class sizes are too big or you haven't seen a dentist in eight months because all your local surgeries are filled up.
For me, supporting the left wing used to equate to being a fundamentally nice person with a sound moral compass. How could you not want everyone to have access to education, healthcare and asylum? And how can you possibly support the death penalty, the pro-life movement or be against gay marriage?
But in the case of the student community I think that the concept of 'Champagne Socialist' is a long established one, but there is a reason why the term 'Cognac Conservative' is yet to make the OED. It is very easy for a student, with the Bank of Mater and Pater acting as a security net, to commit to abstract concepts such as 'equality' or 'social compassion' with lip service and dreadlocks because whilst in the university bubble it is unlikely these views will ever be contested by the trials of the real world.
So the question is, are students with conservative views ahead of the game? Can they see beyond youthful idealism to the realities of their future life which will inevitably be governed by capitalism? Churchill seemed to think so, but I think he also understood that being young, left and idealistic is a necessary stage in life.
At 20, our politics should be governed by blind optimism whilst they can before it turns to weary cynicism. There needs to be a time in our lives where we believe anything is possible for anybody because that is the basis for political, social and economic innovation.
We should absolutely ponder grand political ideals before we are overwhelmed with the actuality of our own small lives. The left wing simultaneously indulges student idealism and lets us wear duffle coats, it is both fashionable (in more than one sense) and hopeful and that is why the student community will always remain staunch supporters of the left.
Suggested For You
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements. Learn more