The head of Theresa May’s policy board made a passionate case for empowering young people as he admitted they were working “like slaves” under the current regime.
Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, George Freeman MP said the economic chasm between generations was “the biggest domestic policy issue” that the country faced in 2017.
Freeman, who recently organised the “Tory Glastonbury” to search for new ideas for the Government, said housing policy needed a radical overhaul.
He claimed he was “treated badly” by his London landlord and campaigning during the General Election, which was disastrous event for the Tories, taught him a lesson.
He said the electorate was split into four groups – the elderly, the middle and two categories of young voters.
Freeman said “the middle” - millennials and under-40s - were never in when he knocked on the door, because they were “the tax slaves of modern Britain” and always working.
He went on to call for a “’new deal for a new generation” in the wake of the 2008 financial crash.
Of “the middle”, he said: “They are always working like slaves, the tax slaves of modern Britain, to pay off the debts of yesterday never mind today and tomorrow.”
Freeman said “the middle” had never experienced the wealth promised to them at school or university and “the youth” were mainly under-21 and faced a different set of problems.
The MP said he did not know “why anyone would join the Conservatives” in their current state and that the party had to work out how to change the situation.
“Unless we tackle that - a bit like a great business - our customers will be moving out. We are not reaching out to our members,” he said.
He said that the housing market was broken, adding: “Interesting year for me because I have gone from being a landlord to being a tenant, in London - pretty salutary.
“When you think I’m about as ideal a tenant as you can get. I don’t have wild taste in music, I live on my own.
“My landlord treated my pretty badly and when I complained, they said well someone else can rent it.
“A lot of tenants are paying a lot of money in rent and being treated really badly. We need to speak about it and be a party that cares rather than appears at times to be a party that only cares about people who own property.”
He told the fringe event that tackling intergenerational unfairness was not about “being trendy” or getting crowds at Glastonbury as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had but “understanding the problem and coming up with proper coherent policy solutions to it”.
Freeman said the widespread use of Uber demonstrated young people were not natural socialists, adding: “The markets are not working, and that is why people are losing faith in capitalism.
“We can’t be complacent about the data. It is quite severe ... culturally, millennials and the young are not socialists at all.
“They want this system to work for them. If we go down the road of ‘money tree’, turn-on-the-taps, be-all-things-to-all-people Corbyn solutions then they will vote for the real thing.
“We need Conservative solutions. It’s not about stepping back and letting the market provide all the solutions, it’s about regulating the markets so that it works for them.”
Theresa May’s right-hand man admitted that the Government’s welfare reforms had been “clunky” and looming issues with the UK’s deficit meant that the party had to “look more fundamentally” at their policy offer.
He said: “It is wrong if that [student] debt becomes a disincentive to get on and earn more. We are driving a generation against aspiration, which is the most un-Tory thing I can think of.”
Mounting problems in the economy meant younger generations felt cheated, he said, before adding young people were “not wrong” to doubt the current system.
He said: “We shouldn’t be surprised the young are starting to ask: why should I support capitalism if I have absolutely no chance of earning any capital?
“So we’re not just fighting for Conservatism, we are actually genuinely fighting for capitalism.”
Freeman added: “They’re not wrong, they’re not mad. They’re experiencing the market of today and it is not working for them and we need to solve that pretty fast.”
Freeman said rail season ticket holders should be offered company shares in rail companies and new towns should be built on rail lines so new businesses had “access” to a mobile labour market.
He also suggested rental costs were squashed to a minimum so young people were able to invest their own money in start-ups.
He said: “I think this is so structural that we might need to think like Beveridge back in the war – a new deal for a new generation.”
“Why don’t we have a conversation with the under-25s and be really honest with them,“said Freeman.
“Say: Guys, this is a bit of a mess. We have a structural deficit and it is simply not going to happen. There is simply not enough to give you what everyone post-war had.
“What do you really want to have and think about a new deal based on not paying any National Insurance, possibly massive incentives for housing: much cheaper rental housing and allow them to invest money into start-up or their own business, and make them entrepreneurs for the 21st Century instead of slaves to a housing market which isn’t working.”
Freeman said a new model of planning was needed with “new towns” on rail lines, adding: “Instead we have house-dumping in our villages, putting more traffic onto the roads and railways hourly. There is no joined up proper investment.
“While we’re at it, why don’t we set up regional railway company and allow season ticket holders to hold shares in it.
“Give people a stake in their own infrastructure. Why don’t we let cities and council raise infrastructure funds to fund infrastructure.”
When cited by another member of the panel as the man who would write the 2022 Conservative manifesto, he joked the next election could be earlier, telling the audience: “It might not be in 2022.”
Freeman concluded by saying post-2008 crash the Conservative Party needed to radically change its image.
“We’ve come to look a bit like the bank manager who says no, instead of the entrepreneur who says yes let’s have a go and we need to recapture some of that spirit,” he said.
Brexit should be an “electrifying moment” for Britain that heralded reform, he added.
“If it looks like Brexit is shaped by austerity and isolationism and an elderly cohort over-dominant in the Conservative Party then it will be a death knell for us for the next generation. It is a really urgent point,” he said.