A few nights ago someone bought up a recent piece I’d written for The Times Red Box where I argue that the party must do more to allow young people space to advocate for it. He accused me of being “stuck in a cognitive loop”. This irritated me for three reasons - first, no-one likes being criticised; second I feared he was correct; and third I had to google what a cognitive loop was.
This set me thinking, and I realised that the youth issue is like many other issues in the Conservative Party. Lots of people with lots to say, and far fewer people doing things. I’ll raise my hands and say I’m certainly in that saying a lot Group, but not sure how much I’m in the doing things camp.
I’m still convinced, and I think I have support in this, that we have a huge deficit in youth engagement; that we are haemorrhaging student activists and that many, not all, our associations are ageing without fresh blood involved.
I’ve written lots of time bemoaning this problem and asking for changes, now I’m going to try and offer some thoughts on what we can do right now without any changes.
If us younger members want to be listened too, want more responsibility, want to steer things more we need to stop asking permission and step up. Already in existence is the Conservative Policy Forum - now I know lots of younger members bemoan their local set up isn’t geared towards them, but let’s start turning up and use the Conservative creed of market demand to change it.
It’s certainly a fact that the left have dominated online discussion in a way we just haven’t
And I know there’s lots of young people who campaign hard and regularly, but I also know there’s many places where we do a lot of drinking, a lot of talking and a lot less coal face door knocking. If we can, as a demographic, start making ourselves more regularly available more consistently and reliably across the UK we can then legitimately ask for more in return.
And what else can happen, that’s in our control? Social media for a start. Now I’m no subscriber to the argument that social media is the be all and end all - that with a few well-written tweets, we can win a crushing majority (and that’s not just because the quality of my own tweets is so low). But it’s certainly a fact that the left have dominated online discussion in a way we just haven’t.
Yes, the party centrally must do more online - and its impressive to see how much progress they’ve already made on this. But as a cohort of young right leaning people, we can use our presence online to advocate more for the Conservative Party off our own backs. We can correct lies, support our MPs, share the great things our party is doing and fight on the frontline for the Party - we don’t need any new structures to do this.
So am I saying I was wrong? Now I’d never admit that. But what I am saying, and urging my fellow young tories to take onboard, is that we can both campaign for change in our Party to probably integrate young people, whilst also taking more action ourselves now to increase our presence, influence and ability to bargain for change within our party.