We need a Conservative Youth Base

The 2017 General Election saw an unprecedented increase in both youth turnout and support for the Labour Party amongst the young. This was the result of more factors than simply a manifesto aimed at students, it was the result of a combination of Labour’s main strength and the Tories’ main weakness. Labour has a very good campaign machine, capable of turning out vast numbers of activists, they have exceptional social media presence and have been able to seize control of the narrative. They have also, crucially, managed not just to turnout young voters, but to turn them into active party members.

If Labour’s young supporters can be turned into activists and members at anything close to their current support rate amongst this group, then the Conservative Party will have a significant generational problem, with voters tied to the Labour Party through personal connections. We Conservatives need to urgently tackle this problem to build up our activist base and support amongst the young, or else our chances of winning majorities will continue to decline.

For starters, we need to recreate a youth wing to allow us to engage directly with young people. A youth wing, led by young people, can find ways to target young supporters and convert them into party members and activists, that a wider party organisation couldn’t. Focussed attention on young voters could spell a new generation of party activists that will enable us to take back the fight to Labour, on the ground and on the internet. A youth wing would also help to tackle the perception that young people are unanimously left wing, which would in turn reduce the effects of shy Conservatism, which acts as a form of activist suppression.

To get young people to buy into party membership, we will need to do more than just re-establishing the young wing though. Once it has been re-established, we will have to equip it with things that will enable it to turn people from conservatives to Conservatives. One of the main things young people want is a reason to join the party, and to feel like they are being listened to. A simple device to encourage young people to join the party, then, would be to create Youth Policy Forums where young people feel like they can influence party policy. We can also offer youth-specific networking events and other opportunities that will attract young people into the party, which require few resources but can build up a strong package to offer potential members.

We also need, as a party, to reclaim a social media presence. Students and young people are ideally placed to take a leading role in this, and a youth wing could have its own dedicated blog site for young Conservatives to share ideas. We’re a party of free speech, so encouraging ideological debate and discussion amongst young members will show people the diverse views held by Tories and open up a wider spectrum of conservatives to party membership. Young people having material to share in their social media spaces will also help to combat the left wing news sites which have become popular, such as The Canary, amongst this core demographic of voters.

Finally, we do need to provide more for young people in terms of policy. We need better ways of selling our existing policies, and we need to turn to low-cost yet more beneficial alternatives to Corbyn’s platform for the young. Examining ways that university and non-university education can be improved for young adults, improving opportunities for young people, encouraging house-building and supporting home ownership, and generally looking for pragmatic policy solutions to regain the support of vast swathes of young people.

If we do not act now, we risk a serious long-term problem for our party. We need some low cost, common sense approaches to improving our engagement with young voters. Most importantly, we need a youth wing again.

“The DUP should not have power” say the party who need them to form a Government

Who knew that 262 was a larger number than 318? Theresa May, the leader of the party who won this election, is forming a government. To do so she is doing a deal with the fifth largest party in the House of Commons. Amongst other things, the DUP are homophobic and anti-abortion. Fortunately, the Conservative Party’s deal with them won’t include votes on those issues, which are largely devolved to Northern Ireland.

Hyperbole about the DUP then is nothing to do with their views, which will largely consist of backing the Tories in areas of overlapping preferences and thereby supporting the manifesto which was endorsed by the most voters. Nor is hyperbole about the DUP about any threat to the Good Friday Agreement, as it has been established that Labour tried to do exactly the same thing in 2010 and 2015. If we add into this the well-known opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 by Corbyn, on the grounds of his support for a united Ireland, and the opposition to the Good Friday Agreement by John McDonnell in 1998 for the same reasons, and the fact that McDonnell thought unionism was something that needed ‘dealing with’, a belief in a neutral approach to Northern Ireland wouldn’t seem to be justified by throwing Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10.

The reason for hyperbole seems to be solely that they are the way that Theresa May stays in Downing Street. After all, if Labour are to form a government then they would need the support of the DUP as well. One wonders whether the DUP’s critics would be so vocal if they were putting Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10.

There has also been an amusing attempt to make ‘Coalition of Chaos’ jokes by Labour members. It’s true that having to rely on another party is not ideal, but it’s remarkable that some people seem to think a Tory/DUP deal is more chaotic than the Labour/Lib Dem/Green/SNP/Plaid/DUP deal it would require to make Jeremy Corbyn, a man with absolutely no mandate, Prime Minister.

Ignoring the hyperbole, the arguments against a Tory/DUP deal seem limited. A few compromises on the manifesto, and a couple of concessions on minor issues provide a government which commands a majority of the House and thus has a mandate to rule. They are certainly less strong than the arguments against the massive compromises involved in the gigantic coalition that is the alternative.

Corbyn actually opposes a Tory/DUP deal because he wants another election while he has the momentum. But we all know, dissolving a Parliament and calling an election because you are riding high in the polls is the kind of political opportunism the public so despise in our politics.

Now is the time for Strong and Stable Leadership

June 8th was the logical time for a General Election within the next two years. Not only was it the right time, it was the only time to secure strong and stable leadership for the Brexit negotiations.

It shouldn’t be over-stated how important a larger majority would be for the Brexit negotiations. If Labour, the Lib Dems, and the SNP had sought to prevent the final Brexit deal being passed, the fate of Brexit would have laid with rebels: if it was a softer Brexit, hard Brexit rebels might have delayed it, and vice versa. A larger majority would give the Prime Minister much needed breathing space around the kind of deal that she negotiates, meaning she is free to negotiate the best deal for Britain.

Winning a General Election would also put to bed any claims that Theresa May’s government lacked the democratic legitimacy to enact one kind of Brexit or another. It would remove the (incorrect) claim that the Prime Minister is unelected and give her the mandate to get on with the job.

An election now, before negotiations would have started, gives Theresa May the chance to get on with the job in negotiations, and deliver strong and stable leadership in the national interest.

The Conservatives are the Only Viable Party on June 8th

On June 8th, the country will have a choice. It will be a choice between a strong, united Conservative Party with a plan for Britain and the capacity to deliver a stable Brexit; and a Labour Party divided and led by a leader completely unfit to occupy 10 Downing Street.

The only thing that unites the Parliamentary Labour Party is their loathing of Jeremy Corbyn – they are not fit or able to govern this country. Their policies are limited and poorly thought through. Free school meals for middle and high income pupils, funded in such a way that they would have to ensure enough pupils went to private school, which combined with their opposition to grammars shows once again that Labour are not the party of opportunity, seems to be the only thing of any real note.

Not only do Labour not have any policies, but they couldn’t deliver them if they did. They are a party of ideological division, gesture politics, and personal ambitions. Corbyn isn’t strong enough to control his MPs or stand up for Britain on the world stage. He u-turned on his long-standing opposition to the EU for political gain – he shouldn’t be trusted to keep short term policy positions if he can’t even stand by his long-held beliefs. He won’t stand in the way of Scottish independence and stand up for our Union. He can’t keep a Shadow Cabinet together, let alone a government. He couldn’t even get a seat on a train, on June 8th don’t let his MPs get a seat in your area.

The Liberal Democrats won’t listen to the people. In 2010, the people trusted the Lib Dems not to raise tuition fees, they did. In 2016, the people told us they wanted to Leave the European Union, the Lib Dems didn’t listen. If you vote for them in 2017, can you really trust them to deliver what they promise? They want this election to be Remain vs Leave, stirring up the division of the last year once more – on June 8th, reject the Lib Dems’ politicking with the will of the people and don’t let them prop up an incompetent Corbyn government.

UKIP are divided and obsolete. They are a protest party without any credible political figures and an inability to keep the ones that they do have. If you want to see what a UKIP presence in Parliament would look like, look no further than their European Parliamentary group – disorganised, prone to (literal) infighting, and with a poor attendance record. A vote for UKIP on June 8th is a vote against Brexit and against a strong government. It is a vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

This election will define the future of our country. For a strong, stable, united United Kingdom vote for a Conservative Party who will stand up for Britain in the Brexit negotiations and who will stand up to the Scottish Nationalists in Edinburgh. It is time to put aside division, and petty politicking and come together behind the Prime Minister to deliver a solid mandate for this country’s future.

Theresa May has shown that she is able to represent Britain on the world stage. She is a proven statesperson with a solid record in government. The Conservative Party has a strong platform of policies and a record of delivering on our promises. If you wanted to find a direct contrast to Labour’s incompetence, you needn’t look much further than Theresa May’s Conservative Party.

A vote for the Conservative and Unionist Party is a vote for a strong and united United Kingdom. A vote for the Conservative Party is a vote for a proven government filled with experienced legislators who can continue to build a strong economy and a fair society. A vote for the Conservatives is a vote for a party who will listen to, and work for, the people of this country at home and abroad.

Now, more than ever, we need a strong and stable government working for this country. Labour and UKIP can’t deliver, the Lib Dems won’t deliver – on June 8th let’s continue building a country that works for everyone.

Theresa May is Not Unelected

There are many conflicts inherent within modern politics: the fact that we bemoan the lack of young people in politics and yet berate young politicians as both inexperienced and careerist; our desire for more ‘normal’ people in politics but our aversion to paying a wage that would enable less affluent people to afford to enter politics; the list could go on and on. The biggest problem in the modern era, however, is that politics has become about the leaders rather than the policies, the parties, and the candidates.

Policies and representatives have become somewhat of an afterthought when deciding which party to vote for – instead, as the rise of the debates between party leaders during election campaigns attest to, we have descended into a situation where many voters are voting based on whom they want to be Prime Minister, as opposed to which MP they want to represent them and which party they want to be in government. This is, fundamentally, why people mistakenly refer to Theresa May as being ‘unelected’.

The truth is that no Prime Minister is actually elected by the public (or at least not by all of the public). David Cameron was not made Prime Minister by virtue of a ballot of the whole country, but more he was elected as an MP by the people of Witney and made PM by the fact that a majority of constituencies elected MPs of his party to Parliament. The principle of primus inter pares forms the basis of British politics – that is, that our leaders are elected by the representatives that we send to Westminster.

Theresa May was elected by a majority of her party colleagues and is therefore not an ‘unelected Prime Minister’. The only reason she may be considered unelected is if people voted for the person leading a party at the ballot box, rather than the person representing them – after all, only 58,482 people had David Cameron’s name on their ballot paper.

This cult of personality that has developed around our leaders raises interesting questions – after all, if we view electing our local representatives as a means of electing a national leader, won’t that mean that woeful MPs will not be held to account? If we prefer electing a PM to a local representative, should we introduce some sort of list based system of election? Or perhaps separate the executive from the legislature?

Either of those options wouldn’t seem to be a basis for ensuring efficient policy-making – in the former case, it makes it difficult to ensure that our representatives deliver on their promises; in the latter we could end up with the sort of deadlock we see in the American system.

Yet, do we have a problem? Aside from the rhetoric thrown out by opposition parties indicating that a Prime Minister who takes over without a General Election is unelected, the culture of modern politics could be beginning to move away from being leader-dominated. Labour voters may be forced to choose between their policies and local representatives, and their leader – the winner of that particular battle could shape how much the leader dominates the future of British politics.

As with the coalition, when cries of, ‘They have no mandate!’ filled the media, assertions that Theresa May has no mandate are in essence a misunderstanding of representative democracy. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, when one elects their MP, they then represent them using their industry and their judgement – thus it doesn’t matter who the leadership is, if you have an MP able to stand up for your interests.

In a representative democracy like Britain, Theresa May and the Parliament we elected in 2015 have a mandate to pass the laws and regulations they see fit, just as we have the right to lobby them to act in a certain way. Mrs May is not unelected, she is simply the new first among equals – a principle that always guides the steady hand of British democracy through restive waters.

Campus Conservatives Must be Empowered

There is a stigma attached to being a Tory, particularly as a young person, and this is a problem that needs to be addressed by the Party now more than ever. While people vote for our Party, and people agree with our policies, they are afraid to admit it. Even long-time supporters and voters find themselves hesitating before answering the question, ‘Which Party do you support?’. More must be done to combat the stigma.

Students are not as left-wing as people think, it is more that the most vocally political students tend to be the left-wing ones. This perception of students as exclusively left-wing is alarming because of the effect it has on breeding shy conservatism. The impression that all students are left-wing means that young Conservatives have a fear that speaking out and defending right-wing positions will lead to them being ostracised socially and thus get into the habit of hiding their true political beliefs – compounding the stereotype that all students are left-wing.

Staying silent and embracing shy conservatism is certainly the easiest route to take, especially where popularity is concerned, but this is, fundamentally, the problem, and it is a problem that cannot be solved by continuing the well-trodden path outlined above. Accordingly, generations of Conservatives will graduate from university – the time at which they are most able to refine their ideas – accustomed to being cautionary when discussing their politics, and unwilling and unable to defend and campaign for the Conservative Party.

This is a problem that must be addressed at universities urgently, so as to prevent more generations of shy Conservatives.

Conservative Societies (or their equivalents) at University tend to both reinforce and highlight the problem. The only members of such Societies tending to be the active campaigners, and the only activity on offer being active campaigning. This can be alienating in itself, particularly to the shy Tories. 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, however the various recent scandals that led to the demise of that organisation’s national executive mean that it will have to be a grassroots effort in individual societies. Rather than just offering young people campaigning, campaigning and more campaigning, individual university societies and youth groups need to tailor an experience which leaves students with good experiences of the Party, and a route into the more active stuff.

Most students in university societies love campaigning, but then they tend to love elections, and politics. Other, shier, Conservatives are not as keen – particularly at university – and it is these Conservatives that we should be doing more to appeal 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 members and supporters of the future that the Party can offer them so much.

If more people are going to stand up and support the Party, then we need to take advantage of the unique opportunity we are presented with. The main opposition parties have never been in a worse position – if we can give more people a reason to stand up and support us, and if we can show them that they are not alone in being a Conservative-backing young person, then we will be able to prevent another generation falling to predominantly shy Conservatism.

Why Grammar Schools Will Revitalise Equality of Opportunity

Theresa May and Education Secretary Justine Greening have indicated the return of Grammar Schools to the mainstream of British education. While many commentators have reacted with hostility – sometimes going so far as to argue that Grammar Schools entrench elitism – the reintroduction of such a system will both revitalise that old liberal value of equality of opportunity and continue the Cameron government’s push to expand the opportunities available to young people, with regards finding the type and style of education that best suits them.

The existing system for Grammar Schools is by no means perfect – it is true that richer parents can hire expensive tutors to help their children pass the Eleven-Plus – but that is not a reason to reject the notion of Grammar Schools. While there are elements of the current system that need reforming, the answer is to reform those faults – not reject the system as a whole. If we want to create a society where a person can achieve their maximum human potential regardless of their result in life’s first great lottery, then we need to embrace Grammar Schools.

When journalists decry Grammar Schools as a place for rich parents to send their children instead of private school, they fail to notice the converse of their argument. Grammar Schools are indeed as good as private schools, and the fact that they are free means that people who would not be able to afford to attend a private school receive the advantages of that level of education without it bankrupting them. Yes, sometimes rich students will attend Grammar Schools instead of private schools, but if even a single student gets the opportunity to enjoy a standard of education they would have been otherwise unable to receive, then that represents a victory for equality of opportunity and social mobility.

If we want to give opportunity to all, then we need to have a Grammar School system alongside our present education system – allowing students who want a more intensely academic education the chance to have such an education, and to learn alongside equally minded people who will drive them to do even better. Students who want to go to the best schools should be able to regardless of their income bracket, social class, or location – that’s why bringing Grammar Schools to more locations across the country is so important.

We need to have an education system that caters to everyone. If a student favours a vocational-specific education, they can choose to go to a college and learn a specific skill or group of skills. If a student wants to learn on the job, they can do an apprenticeship after they leave school. If a student wants a comprehensive education – combining vocational subjects and academic subjects – they can choose to go to a comprehensive school. If a student wants to specialise in a subject, they can go to university. So why should a student who wants an academically-focussed education have to pay for private school?

Reintroducing Grammar Schools into the mainstream of British education enables students to have a full range of choices about the type of education they want to have, regardless of their financial backgrounds. Students shouldn’t lose out on a high quality education because some aspects of the current system need reform – let’s reintroduce Grammar Schools and make them even more accessible to all students.

Bringing back Grammar Schools will enable us to bring opportunity to every corner of this country, and bring choice to every student.

The Legacy of David Cameron

The premiership of David Cameron has seen a lot of firsts. History will smile on Cameron as the Prime Minister who launched a series of liberal reforms to rival many of his contemporaries; history will also remember him as the safe hand on the rudder who stabilised the British economy following one of the worst recessions ever. In his six years as Prime Minister, Cameron led the first coalition in post-WWII Britain and he delivered the first Conservative majority government since 1992. While in the short term memory Mr Cameron will be remembered as the PM who lost the EU referendum, let’s have a look at his real legacy.

A major part of David Cameron’s legacy will be the stability he brought to politics during his six years at the helm. In May 2010 the country was thrust into new territory and political uncertainty – with no party remotely close to holding a majority. The fact that the Coalition Government (2010-2015) was such a remarkable success shows us acutely one of Mr Cameron’s major strengths: his ability to unify diverse political ideas into a coherent policy platform. It also showed his unique diplomacy and willingness to compromise – although credit in equal measure is owed to Nick Clegg.

As Prime Minister, Cameron put direct democracy back into the mainstream. The AV Referendum of 2011 gave the entire country the chance to choose our electoral system for the first time in our history. In 2014 he gave the Scottish people the opportunity to decide on their collective destiny in an independence referendum. The referendum of 2016 may have seen the end of his premiership, but the simple fact is that his leadership saw the British people given the chance to answer the European question for the first time since 1975, and throughout his premiership he promoted direct democracy.

Cameron’s Britain will be remembered as one which underwent massive economic recovery. The economy in 2016 does not remotely resemble the economy he inherited in 2010. Unemployment is down, the deficit is down, and there are more businesses. The economy is strong enough to commit 0.7% of National Income to foreign aid spending – enabling vital projects in other countries. Economic reforms have enabled Cameron to lift some of the poorest people in our country out of the tax bracket, and reforms to introduce a national living wage have seen the lowest paid in society receive a pay increase.

In his liberalising reforms, however, we see David Cameron’s true legacy. Every time a same-sex couple celebrates their love for one another in a marriage ceremony – that is David Cameron’s legacy. Equality before the law, regardless of your sexuality – that is David Cameron’s legacy. When a young student chooses to go into an apprenticeship rather than university – that choice and ability to pursue vocational opportunities is David Cameron’s legacy. Every school that is free to set its own curriculum and is empowered to act in the best interests of its students – that is David Cameron’s legacy. Every extra pound in the pockets of the poorest, from tax cuts, the living wage and reduced government waste – that is David Cameron’s legacy.

Under David Cameron our schools have improved, our justice system has become fairer, our economy has become stronger. During David Cameron’s premiership our universities have become more self-sufficient, our government has become less wasteful, our government deficit has halved. As Prime Minister, David Cameron oversaw reforms to make our country more secure, to give our people more of a voice, and to make our poorest richer.

David Cameron leaves office with a legacy to be proud of. History will certainly remember him with fondness. His legacy is a Britain which is richer, which is stronger, and which is fairer.

Brexit Means Brexit – How Theresa May Should Make It Work

When Theresa May took office yesterday afternoon, her opening speech set out a series of radical reforms to Britain that she will deliver over the next four years. Arguably her most important statement of the last week, however, is the one she made on Tuesday: ‘Brexit means Brexit, and we’re going to make a success of it’. With the appointments of David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox to her cabinet early on, it is clear that that statement was more than hyperbole, so here is what Theresa May might consider doing to ensure that Brexit does indeed mean Brexit.

If we are to deliver the Brexit that the country voted for, then we need to get everyone rowing in the same direction. Brexit requires real unity if we are to make it work, and securing that unity will be one of Mrs May’s toughest challenges. Within the Conservative Party (both its Parliamentary members and the membership as a whole), Theresa May has already embarked upon her unity drive. To continue to secure that unity, May will need a Cabinet which encompasses the most competent MPs from both sides of the Remain/Leave divide, and she will need to convince Party members that she is truly committed to delivering on Brexit.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must be included and consulted as part of the negotiations on how our post-Brexit relationship with the EU will look. We are a family of nations in the United Kingdom – sometimes in a family decisions get made that not everyone agrees with, but what we must do now is ensure that we have an open and honest dialogue with all of our regions to ensure that we get a Brexit that works for all of us. The appointment of Ruth Davidson to the Privy Council last night was an interesting signal that there will be a cross-nation Brexit team, however it remains an important fact that – whether you like her or not – Nicola Sturgeon must have a representative at the table if we are to ensure true unity post-Brexit.

Many young people feel let down by Brexit, and it is they who will be affected by the future direction this country takes. We need to involve young people in the Brexit process – remembering that a significant number of (albeit less vocal post-referendum) people aged 18-24 voted to Leave as well as those who voted Remain. It would make sense, therefore, for May’s government to create a body of young people who could be consulted on the negotiations and the sort of package young people want to see delivered. MPs are, by the nature of life and their jobs, not able to be in touch with the Students’ Unions and the classrooms to the same extent that young people are. If we created a panel of young people, from both the Leave and Remain camps, who could go out and garner opinions on the best post-Brexit strategy for young people, then we would ensure unity in one of the most affected groups, and it would also be a terrific statement by Mrs May, that in her government, young people have a voice.

A Parliament united behind the Brexit package is so much more powerful than one fighting over every little amendment. To garner Parliamentary unity is no easy thing – as the Cameron/Clegg coalition premiership showed us – but garner it we must if we are to deliver a Brexit that will unite the country. Just as with all of the groups in our society being included, and all of the nations in our country being included, all of the parties in our Parliament must be included in the decision about what sort of deal to pursue. Including members from Labour, the Lib Dems, UKIP and all of the other Parliamentary parties would be another bold statement from Mrs May that Brexit is bigger than party politics.

The Brexit that Theresa May delivers will define her premiership. Regardless of whatever else she delivers, she has been charged by the Conservative Party with securing the best deal for Brexit and her legacy will depend on that deal. She needs to deliver unity to a divided nation – removing hatred towards others (be they of a difference race, class, gender or political position), dismissing this idea of ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’, and delivering a Brexit that works for all. As Theresa May says, ‘Brexit means Brexit’ – if she’s going to make a success of it, then we need unity now more than ever.