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For The Conservatives, The Question Is Where Are The Young?

12/06/2017 17:12 BST | Updated 12/06/2017 17:12 BST
Jan-Otto via Getty Images

It would be an understatement to say that this result wasn't quite what the Conservative Party was looking for, and now there will be the inevitable days of finding answers to why, and how, this happened. But it's a fallacy to say that young people have wholeheartedly turned their backs on the Conservative Party and right wing politics.

Research in fact shows us that millennials, contrary to popular opinion, are more right wing than ever. Young people are more consumerist and Thatcherite - taking a harder line on the welfare state. It's therefore a surprise that they've reportedly turned their backs on the Conservative Party, and in their droves voted for Jeremy Corbyn's Labour.

One of the answers is simple - whilst Labour were offering young people an a-la-carte menu where the bill was being picked up by someone else, Theresa May was proposing a nutritious sports drink. Ultimately the Conservative offer was better in the long term, but it was a far tougher sell and we didn't work to articulate to young people the need to worry about tomorrow, not just today.

But further answers are more complicated - the Conservative Party has had a complicated relationship with its own younger members for a large part of its history. From the infamous days of the Young Conservatives and Conservative Students, which were merged into the most recent iteration Conservative Future, to more recent problems around governance and oversight that have led to a raising up of the drawbridge to young people's engagement in the Party.

This difficulty directly engaging with our own young members, makes it even harder then to reach outside to other young people. Where Momentum are able to turn their large, young activist base into propaganda agents across campuses, in schools, and in their grandparents homes - the young Conservatives I know, though happily pounding the streets for us, feel disengaged from our message.

We have, over a number of years, managed to create a generational divide within our own Party and we've lost what is, in a modern digital campaign, an incredible resource - active and genuine young advocates.

The Party needs to redefine its relationship with its young members - viewing them less as leaflet fodder, and more as genuine parts of its mission. Inviting their contributions in debates on policy, encouraging them more to actively advocate for the party on and offline and pushing them to take more leadership roles in the voluntary party.

As we look across the country large parts of our Party are ageing - from constituency Chairmen, to councillors. Whilst there is of course a need to have experience in our Party, and I'm by no means arguing against that, for our Party's longevity we do need to look at repairing the ladder of opportunity inside our own Party before we can repair the country's.

The Conservatives have a strong pro-enterprise, socially liberal message that young people do genuinely want to hear. Our organisation needs to rethink how it taps into its significant young membership to help share and spread this message, and bring the young people home.

The Labour Party has Momentum, we need to give our young people direction.