Tory Leadership Candidate Appeals To Young People Like Me Are A Farce

If any of the candidates genuinely cared about listening to and engaging with younger voices, they would commit to a vote on the final Brexit deal.
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There’s not much that unites these Conservative leadership candidates. At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking they only seem to share a psychoactive past and a dim view of the future. But as their campaigns advance, a clear pattern is emerging: all of them are desperate to pretend they care about young people.

Jeremy Hunt announced that his biggest single reason for standing was to ensure our generation has the same opportunities as his – presumably as long as those opportunities aren’t in one of the 27 countries covered by free movement.

Rory Stewart has promised a housebuilding programme that can “transform the lives of young people”, Andrea Leadsom’s “transformative offer for young people” includes a scheme to allow first time buyers to borrow for a deposit, and Sajid Javid wants to reduce deposits for young renters.

Mark Harper even opted for a reddit-style “Ask Me Anything” campaign launch, putting aside the country’s imminent catastrophes to reflect upon whether a lion or a bear would win in a fight (answer: lion, because England).

Even Boris Johnson, briefly coming out of hiding to launch his campaign, determined to give young people “the same tools and the same freedom and the same confidence to succeed.”

Across the board - and this is a board that otherwise makes Monopoly look utopian - there has been a curiously concerted effort to appeal to young people. The candidates are

There’s only one problem: the candidates are queuing up to reach out to a generation that won’t get to have their say. Only 14% of Conservative members are below 34. By contrast, 61% of those that get to choose the country’s next prime minister are over 55.

Put simply, there is no electoral need to make good on any of these promises. They are designed to appeal to the parents and grandparents eligible to choose the next leader, rather than those that will actually have to live with their impact.

Dig a little deeper and the disdain for young people is obvious: Rory Stewart’s national citizen service proposal might speak to the 74% of over 65s who want to see a return to compulsory military service, but among 18-24 year olds it’s 10%. For reference, that makes it less popular than the prospect of reintroducing the death penalty after we leave the EU.

Or take a look at where money is being spent on digital advertising: Dominic Raab, who has spent more than ÂŁ50,000 on Facebook ads so far - well in excess of all the other candidates combined - is overwhelmingly targeting over 55s.

In policies and in publicity, the candidates presume to speak for us rather than engage with our points of view. After all, it is not our voices they will hear when members choose the next prime minister.

It’s bad enough in a general election, when Brexit-backing politicians make promises for futures they’re otherwise determined to jeopardise. But in an election where only 0.02% of the population actually get to vote, it’s utterly shameless.

Worse still, whoever is elected will no doubt claim a mandate for their absurd presumptions about what’s best for our future.

If any of the candidates genuinely cared about listening to and engaging with younger voices, they would commit to a vote on the final Brexit deal, allowing the millions of new voters who didn’t get a say in 2016 to speak their minds on a decision not yet implemented.

Instead we get promises without consequences, courtesy of politicians irresponsibly pandering to a tiny electorate hell bent on denying us the opportunities they’ve enjoyed for decades. So much for the will of the people.

Chris Allnutt is a campaigner for Our Future, Our Choice, the UK-wide youth movement for a people’s vote

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