Despite nearly a third of all Conservative party members being over 60, there has been a recent resurgence in the youth wing of the party.
Conservative Future, which only a decade ago carried a meagre following of 3,000, now has more than 15,000 members. A recent YouGov poll found that month on month during 2014, support among 18-24 year olds for the Conservatives was on par with the Greens – the current party of the moment for the British youth.
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We decided to chat to a few of these young Tory activists; to get their opinion on the current state of UK politics, the student scene and why they will be voting Conservative in a few months time.
Harry Bull, who helps run Buckingham New University's Conservative Society, says supporting the Conservatives is no different from other students being involved in politics.
"We care about society, the country and the people that live within it. We support personal freedom, low taxes and a prosperous nation.
“We believe this can be done by creating and supporting jobs, providing homes for people to live in and supporting a strong economy so that we can support essential government services such as the NHS.”
Robert Zhou, who chairs the Imperial College Union Conservative Society, holds similar views to Harry’s and says he’ll be voting Conservative at the next election because he supports their economic policy, adding: “We cannot solve any problems without a strong economy.”
The Conservative Party has in the past received much bad press for its perceived upper-class snobbery.
Disagreeing with the commonly-held view the party remains heavily dominated by male, middle-class, middle-aged men, Robert sees it as more a demographic issue.
“My personal view is that this is more a result of these groups of people being more interested in getting into politics than the rest. The same as more politicians having an arts degree; scientists are less interested in politics.”
He also doesn’t believe barriers exist for people from different backgrounds or genders to break into politics, citing Margaret Thatcher as the best evidence of this.
Thatcher has left a powerful legacy for women in the conservative party. Victoria Adams, who heads up Queen Mary’s Conservative Society, puts a refreshing female perspective on the narrowness of the Conservative Party.
Although accepting there is a high ratio of white, middle-class men in the party, she does however see the growth of female influence as incredibly important.
“I don't believe that numbers equate to domination. There are some great women leading the Conservative party at the moment.”
Although Victoria currently works in parliament as part of her degree at Queen Mary, University of London, she doesn’t see a career in government as viable.
“The 'political process' doesn't make it an easy thing to do - especially if I am older and have children of my own. So I imagine if the process of becoming an MP is ever reformed, we would see more diversity in all parties in the country, not just the Conservative party.”
A recent Higher Education Policy Institute report warned the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats risk losing seats in this election as a direct result of a student protest vote against the tuition fee rise enacted by the current government. Ben Judge, is a King’s College London student and is President of the Conservative Society. Despite the tuition rise he thinks things have improved for young people since the last election.
“The Conservative Party has made life better for students and graduates, for example, by ensuring that students do not pay any of their student loan back until they earn £21,000.”
Victoria, who is the Honorary President of her university’s Conservative Society, also thinks the current government has made a positive impact on education.
“I have been massively in favour of the Conservatives education programme. Michael Gove’s reforms have been inspiring and impressive - especially with regards to free schools - which have really turned around education in certain areas.”
The youth vote has been heralded as a key demographic, that if tapped, could sway the next general election. However, parties considered to be on the left wing (or with certain leftist attributes) are known to draw the most affinity from the young.
At the last election many students many first time voters jumped on the Liberal Democrat bandwagon. Following the 2010 television debates, a poll, looking specifically at students, revealed that half backed the Lib Dems. This support has now tumbled to around only 7%. The Green Party has received a lot attention recently following an upsurge in backing from students.
Ben sees that the growth in youth support for the Green Party will detract away from Labour’s vote in this election, but he does have reservations about the party.
“Many of the Green Party’s policy pledges are incoherent, unfeasible and frankly ludicrous. Students have always loved radical politics, hence their increasing support base.”
In line with this he feels there to be a growing rise of a ‘radical left’ on campuses across the country, as well as at King’s. He sees them as damaging to valuable student traditions.
“Far from seeking to encourage debate, these ‘Stepford students’, as Brendan O'Neill terms them, seek to curtail free speech and drown out points of view differing from their own.”
Brendan O’Neill is the editor of SPIKED - the magazine that released the recent free speech table, which found that 80% of universities actively gag students' freedom of expression. In a podcast for The Spectator he describes a new breed he claims to be evolving in British universities.
“A ‘Stepford Student’ is a student who is intolerant, closed-minded, allergic to discussing or talking about difficult or controversial ideas, and who seems to have had his or her brain replaced by a kind of machine.”
Harry Bull, who is also planning on voting for the Conservative’s at the election doesn’t share Ben’s sentiments about the ‘radical left’ on his campus.
“If you have an opinion, act on it”, he says, “find a party that best represents your values and if that doesn’t exist, create your own one. We think it’s fantastic to see the rise in popularity of not just the Green Party, but in students getting involved in politics altogether.”
Before the Conservative Society was formed, there wasn’t a single political society at Buckinghamshire New University. Harry, now society’s secretary, doesn’t see his support of the Conservatives as any different to other students. “Those interested in politics want the best for the country, we just differ in opinion on how that’s done.
“We still are the only political society at the university”, he says, “and, we would quite frankly like some competition.”