Building a Conservative Future

Last night I was elected as President of the Southampton University Conservative Association. We need to build a Conservative Future, particularly a Conservative Future for Southampton, and as President of SUCA that is exactly what I intend to do.

There is a stigma attached to being a Tory, and this is a problem that we need to address as a group. Yes, people vote for our Party, and yes, people agree with our policies, but they are afraid to admit it. Even I, a long-time supporter, voter and campaigner find myself hesitating before answering the question, ‘And which Party do you support?’ We must do more to combat the stigma.

Students are not as left-wing as people think. There is a common misconception of students as being left-wing utopians, persistently protesting and generally not being, well, conservative. Nonetheless this is a perception which is both false and alarming, and yet it is a conception of students which is ultimately borne out in public. But that is because of the stigma. Conservative students are a unique breed, we get far more grief than any other political group and accordingly there is a tendency to duck the pressure and simply stay silent. That would certainly be the easiest route to take, especially where popularity is concerned. This is, fundamentally, the problem. We have raised generations of Conservatives who are accustomed to being cautionary when discussing politics, who aren’t willing to put their head out and defend and campaign for Conservatism.

My generation must address this.

Conservative Societies at University both reinforce and highlight the problem. The only members being the active campaigners, the only activities being actively campaigning. This is alienating in itself, in particular to the Shy Tories so often encountered at university (and there are far more than we are given credit for). Conservative Future and its many branches and affiliates (including university societies) should be doing so much more to engage with our student members on a personal level. Rather than just offering them campaigning, campaigning and campaigning, let’s tailor an experience which leaves students with fond memories of the Party, and a route into the more active stuff.

I love campaigning, but then I love elections, and I love politics. Other Conservatives are not as keen, particularly at university where the ‘old boys club’ image of our Party is damaging, and it is these that we should be appealing to. We need more socials, more events, more opportunities for a CV. We need to show aspiring politicians that there is a route into politics. We need to show aspiring campaigners that every individual can make a difference. But most importantly, we need to show the loyal members of the future that the Party can offer them so much (particularly if we want them to part with hard earned cash).

Our image is divisive and corrosive. We have been the Nasty Party for so many years, not because that is what we are, but because too few people are willing to stand up and fight for the Conservative Party.

I am proud to be a Conservative. I have always believed that Conservatism is about enabling everyone to fulfil their fullest potential, and supporting those who (for whatever reason) cannot. I am proud to support aspiration. To support working people.

At the moment, when we are at our most divided, I am proud to support a Party of inclusivity. A Party who can have these disagreements and emerge from them stronger. We are the Conservative Party, let’s help more people stand up and say that.

Together we can build a Conservative Future for Southampton.

‘I’m In because I’m a Global Citizen’ and Other Myths: Part II

In recent weeks I have heard increasingly more arguments from In campaigners which are not only factually inaccurate, but are frankly deliberately misleading. In Part II of this myth buster series I will attempt to shine a light on some of these and provide rebuttal to each, to show all of you why the better open on June 23rd is to Vote Leave.

Myth: ‘I’m In because I’m a Global Citizen’

I’m sorry, if you believe this, then you are not a global citizen. The European Union is not about engaging with the world and Brexit is not about withdrawing from it. The EU represents a political, economic, and increasingly security union between 28 nations. It represents a closed group of 28 nations, hemmed in by a common (and highly inflexible) border, and a common (and highly inflexible) external tariff. If you are a true internationalist, you will accept that 197 is a much larger number than 28, and you will Vote Leave.

But I digress, the real issue here is how Brexit is portrayed. The In campaign would have you believe that we are Little Englanders, that we want isolation, that we are not global citizens, alas they are lying to you. I want to see Britain on the world stage again, with our feet under the table at the World Trade Organisation, able to chart our own course through the murky waters of international politics. I want to see a Britain able to form free trade deals with the entire world, not just 14% of it. I want to see a Great Britain, allying ourselves with our friends, be they European, Asian, African, American or Australasian. Because it shouldn’t matter where a country is located, if they share our values, our beliefs and our aspirations, there should be no restrictions on our friendships.

Lets be global citizens again.

Myth: ‘We’re Safer In’

This is an oft repeated phrase put out by the In camp, which lends itself nicely to the Project Fear rhetoric they are attempting to create. Unfortunately, it is a fundamentally flawed assertion. Indeed it is an assertion which can be nothing more than conjecture. There are two main ways in which I wish to tackle this, however I shall only address one in this piece and reserve the latter (that of intelligence and policing) for another edition of myth busting. For now, I shall be taking on this myth from the peace perspective.

It is a common mistake to use the argument that Britain is somehow safer in the EU because there have been no major European conflicts for 70 years. In one respect they are correct, in that there have indeed been no major conflicts on the European continent for seven decades. Where the misdirection applies, is when this is laid down as an achievement of the European Union, because it is not. The lack of major conflict in Europe since the end of World War Two can be explained for several reasons, and for the sake of not writing an International Relations essay on the subject (because I write enough of those as is) I shall only brief touch on the headline of those. The main reason is a fairly simple one: the balance of world power has shifted away from the European mainland. The Cold War is the most notable example, the main two powers having been the USSR and the USA, and yet what In campaigners forget is that for all the political alliances within Europe a clash between those two nations would have seen a major war in Europe.

Now, at this juncture I feel a hypothetical is required to demonstrate how a European war is just as possible within a European political union.

Say, in 2018, Russia are performing military exercises and ‘accidentally’ cross the border into Estonia. The two sides clash. Russia invades Estonia in retaliation. What happens then? Well, our political union is honour bound to come to the aid of Estonia, and we see a war on the European continent once again. Except this time it is a bigger war, because as we saw in WWI and WWII, alliances and political unions serve only to increase the number of belligerents and increase the human cost.

Hypothetical, but possible. There is absolutely no evidence that the EU creates peace, if anything it is just another alliance and history shows us that alliances cause more wars than they prevent. Still feel Safer In? Neither do I.

Myth: ‘Leave campaigners are anti-immigration’

Let me be clear at this point, that I am not advocating any specific immigration policy and neither are many of my fellow campaigners. What we are advocating is choice, is democracy, is fairness. Should it matter where a person is born, if they want to live in this country? If you believe that people from France and Italy have more right to live in Britain than people from India and Pakistan, then the European Union is for you.

I don’t believe it is right for a government to be elected with an immigration target, and be unable to meet that target because it cannot control the thing it was mandated to do. I don’t believe it is right, that my friends who were born outside of the EU should have any less opportunity to live and work in this country than someone born inside of the EU. Think about your friends, no doubt some of them were born outside of a 28 nation political union. Do they deserve to be discriminated against by an unfair immigration system?

It is not fair that a doctor from Delhi should have less access to this country than a plumber from Paris. It is not right that a lawyer from Lahore should be denied entry when a road sweep from Rome isn’t. It is not just that your friends from 169 nations should be discriminated against in favour of people from 27.

No one can choose where they are born. No one can influence that. Your friends, your neighbours, your families should not lose out because of their result in life’s first great lottery.

Conclusion of Part II: Another three myths down, so many more to go. The In campaign are wrong, on June 23rd we must show them how wrong they are.

This Referendum is About You

This referendum is about you. It is about the Britain you want to live in. It is about the future you want to have. On June 23rd, when you go into that booth and tick a box, make the decision which is best for you. Now, I’m not going to sit here behind an article and tell you which box to tick, only you can decide which box represents the best Britain for you, I’m simply going to offer you something to ponder, something to remember when you cast your vote.

Economically, Britain (the fifth largest economy in the world) gets a bad deal from this customs union. We give up our ability to negotiate free trade deals with China, India, America and the growing markets of the world, for membership of the world’s only declining market. A market with which our trade is falling year on year (even with the Rotterdam Effect and its exaggeration of UK-EU trade levels). There are those who say that we wouldn’t get a deal from the EU, they are wrong. Germany, France, and the other member states would not give up trade with Britain out of spite.

Democratically, we get a rotten deal from a political union we never voted to join. Democracy is about power being wielded as close to the people it affects as possible, it is about being able to see your representatives to hold them to account, it is about being able to vote them out. A supranational body, where Eurocrats in Brussels (and Strasbourg) are the only people with the power to propose legislation, is not just undemocratic, it is anti-democratic. If the European Union were to apply to join the European Union, it would not meet its own democratic checks!

We are, in Britain, one of the most powerful sovereign nations on the planet (as members of the UN Security Council), yet we are not sovereign over our own legislation, meaning the governments we elect cannot do the things we mandated them to. The Conservatives cannot meet their immigration targets, meaning this country has to be harsher when accepting non-EU migrants. I do not wish to make this a debate about immigration, but I simply put forth this: we have thousands of non-EU students at this university, all of you will know someone born outside of the EU. These students are brilliantly talented and yet there is a significant chance that they, or perhaps their parents, will not be able to settle in this country. Why? Because we have to meet an immigration quota. We cannot welcome a doctor from Delhi, because we have a plumber from Paris, cannot take a lawyer from Lahore, because we have a road sweep from Rome. This is unfair and unjust. Leaving the EU would enable a skills-based approach to immigration, so that all of your friends can live in this country, regardless of where they were born in life’s first great lottery.

I would like, at this juncture, to correct something written in my opening remarks. This referendum is about us. It is about you, your friends, your family, your community, your nation. It is about our Britain. With that in mind, I would like to ask you one simple question. If the status quo were different, if Britain were outside the European Union, holding a referendum on whether or not to join, how would you vote? Would you give up your democracy, your sovereignty, your freedom to trade? I wouldn’t, and that is why I will be ticking the Leave box.