Conservatives must ditch negative party politics if they want to win back young voters, according to education secretary Justine Greening.
The cabinet minister used her conference speech in Manchester to tell delegates she believed the Tories could win back swathes of the under-25 electorate from Labour.
She said while many young people had voted for Jeremy Corbyn and his anti-austerity message in the general election, policies like freezing student fees and increasing the number of degree apprenticeships could offer “a positive message”.
“If we are going to win the trust and support of young people more generally, we need to understand two things,” she said.
“First of all, for lots of them, negative party politics is a turn-off.
“Yes of course we should hold Labour to account for its empty promises – like Labour’s empty promise to young people on student debt – and they’re actually raising tuition fees in Wales – but that’s not enough.
“Because secondly, they want to hear about how our polices are going to make their lives better.
“We have to take the priorities of a new generation of voters, and make them our own.
“And that means we’ve got to be positive, constructive, and optimistic. We’ll win the battle of ideas by showing how our politics delivers for them in practice, how it makes a difference in their lives.”
Greening, who said she was the first person in her family to go to university, also announced a new trial scheme which would see teachers reimbursed part of their student loan, in a bid to boost recruitment - as well as more funding to improve numeracy and literacy among young children.
But Labour said Theresa May’s government was “failing education”, with 500,000 young children in class sizes over 30 and more teachers quitting the profession than ever before.
Blogging for HuffPost UK, Corby MP Tom Pursglove said his party had to “take an honest look in the mirror” if it is to win back hearts and minds of youth voters, with better interaction on social media and and improved systems to mobilise politically active young people.
Pursglove, who was elected in 2017 aged just 28, said the Tories must take on Corbyn’s Labour “without delay”.
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of his message (and I find the highly disingenuous nature of it extremely distasteful and I hope the well-documented undeliverable promises are hitting home, albeit far too late), he has seized upon what was, for the large part, a dormant youth vote and given it cause to speak out and show up,” he writes.
“We must now respond in kind - and fast. That battle of ideas that was last fought in the 1980s must be reenergised on our side too - with gusto and in the modern context. We must explain our values. Urge why they make sense. Why they matter. And most importantly, how they directly relate to the lives of young people and how they are to the betterment of society.”