It is time for Young Conservatives to find their voice
The last general election saw the highest percentage of the 18-24 year old category turning out to vote in 25 years, highlighting the increasing engagement of young people in politics. As a result, party policies have had to place extra focus on benefiting younger people and tackling issues that this age group believe to be important for the future of the United Kingdom. For the Conservative party in particular, the rise of the youth vote was detrimental, with over 60% of the 18-24 year old age category voting for Labour.
In our modern world, there is undoubtedly a stigma that some people associate with being young and voting Conservative. I’m sure we have all witnessed it at a point, be that in our personal life or on social media, when someone questions our Conservative viewpoints or goes on that all too well-known Facebook rampage under a pro-conservative news story or forum. In fact, whilst campaigning for the local elections a few months back, a lady approached me saying: “You’re very young to be voting for the Conservative party”, and it made me beg the question “why?”. Why are the youth of today classified as being ‘too young’ to vote conservative, and for those that do, why should you be afraid to convey it?
Another example of this was after a conversation with a friend of mine. I learned that she has been one of many young Tory voters that was afraid to express her stance in a political discussion because of what those who oppose her view will say or think. Unfortunately, this is not a one-off occurrence, but rather a single example of the fear etched in the minds of a plethora of young Conservative voters.
But what is it about the Conservatives that many of the youth find unattractive, or indeed less attractive than the other political parties? Well, tactics by the Labour party to win over young people in the 2017 general election were undoubtedly overwhelmingly attractive, with the promise to end university tuition fees and the reintroduction of maintenance grants to name but a few. However, we know that many of the promises weren’t feasible and in fact, Mr Jeremy Corbyn faced accusation in relation to misleading students over the tuition fee issue. But what have the Conservative party done to actively engage young people and encourage them to vote Conservative? In my view, not enough, which is a shame considering Conservative party policy benefits young people massively. Yet their ability to convey this at the last election was inadequate.
What do the Conservatives do to benefit the younger generation? Well, since the government took office in 2010, the standard of schools has increased significantly, which has assisted children in getting a better education. Furthermore, they have invested more money in school funding, which will rise to £43.5 billion in 2019/2020 and an increase in the number of new good school places. In addition, they have introduced excellent apprenticeships which assist those younger people that decide to enter full-time vocational study after GCSE stage to reach degree level and have vowed to create a further three million apprenticeships by 2020.
However, the Conservative party have failed in many areas in relation to grasping votes of the younger generation and one of the major downfalls is social media presence. The Labour party inarguably have one up on the Conservatives in relation to social media tactics, and they have been actively involved in digital marketing in the past few years with advertisements and other campaign strategies. This is one the key areas that the party need to act upon and seek to ultimately re-engage with the younger voters.
But it is also up to the young Conservatives of today to speak out about their political stance, not let their voices be silenced and actively seek opportunities to convey what the party does for young people and show there is youth support for the party. If we can destroy the stigma that many associate with being young and voting conservative, it should encourage healthy discussion and make people realise that the Conservatives are not merely an outdated party but rather one that cares about the needs of the younger generation.
This quote by Winston Churchill sums up perfectly why we must encourage youth engagement in politics and not be ashamed of our Conservative opinions as the younger generation of today: "Hear this, young men and women everywhere, and proclaim it far and wide. The earth is yours and the fullness thereof. Be kind, but be fierce. You are needed now more than ever before. Take up the mantle of change. For this is your time."