Why The Tories Will Never Win The Youth Vote

Try as they might, the Tories will never make conservatism cool

Conservative Party Conference Theresa May Speech

by Vicky Spratt |
Published on

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Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air but I know I can count on you. Sooner or later in life the things you love you lose. But you got the love I need to see me through.

We may never know what was going through the head of whoever decided that Florence Welch's cover of Candi Staton's very inspo hit 'You Got The Love' was the right soundtrack for Theresa May to walk on stage to at her party's annual get together. Never mind the fact that, it seems, they didn't actually ask Welch for permission and she's asked them to 'kindly refrain from using her music in the future. x' one can't help but read into the decision.

Instead of love, The Prime Minister was ambushed on stage by a comedian who handed her a symbolic P45. The letters of the slogan behind her – ‘Building A Country That Works For Everyone’ began to fall to the floor as she spoke, in a symbolic moment that needs no explanation. She also suffered a coughing fit, but if Boris Johnson was in your life you’d probably choke on your words too. When it was all over, Amber Rudd had to tell Theresa May’s divided cabinet to put their hands in the air and show some love, leading the applause from her own cabinet.

As I wandered around at Conservative conference in the centre of Manchester earlier this week I was struck by three things. Firstly, how white all of the delegates were. Secondly, how there were actually quite a few young people milling around. Thirdly, how miserable it all seemed.

Reporters and camera operators flocked around Jacob Rees-Mogg wherever he went as though this polysyllabic anti-abortion backbencherwas anything more than antique. Everyone wore a suit. Nobody seemed excited about the future, instead, there was a funereal and elegiac tone to the whole affair.

I didn't see her, but I heard some people behind me gawp 'oh my god there's Katy Hopkins' but, by the time I turned around, I could only see someone who may or may not have been her striding confidently towards a union jack banner like a moth to a flame.

Does Theresa May feel like throwing her hands up in the air? Does she feel forlorn because Britain's is losing the EU and its sort of her fault now? is she counting on the love of her fellow Tories to see her through? Was this a statement of gratitude or a request for support? She knows her party 'has the love to see her through', she just really needs them to start showing it.

If she did, could you blame her? If anyone needs the proverbial love right now it's her. By the time we got to the final day of Conservative conference, she'd been undermined so much that the ground she stood on was in danger of collapsing any moment, leaving her to free fall into a right-wing sinkhole with gloating computer game comedy faces of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg whirling around her.

Boy, are the Conservatives in a bind. Oh Jeremy Corbyn is, and always will be, much cooler than them. In part, this comes with the territory of being a Labour leader. They are by default, rightly or wrongly, seen as having bigger hearts than anyone who could possibly join the 'nasty party'. And yet, cool and relatable the Tories must try to be in order to win the youth vote because put simply, they know that if they don't they have no future.

We moaning millennials aren't that young anymore (and don't I know it as I approach 30), now fully fledged adults our votes are worth courting. If you're the party who raised tuition fees to their highest level and are perceived not to care about the housing crisis this poses a fairly serious problem.

This week the Tories tried, bless them, they tried to show young people they cared. Theresa May's conference opening policy teaser included housing reform, specifically on Help to Buy and regulation of the rental market alongside tuition fees tweakswhich, sadly, equated to little more than business as usual. For some reason, her advisors chose to air these in an exclusive article in that well known go-to millennial news source, The Sunday Telegraph. The policies were not, in or of themselves bad, but they failed to make the same splash as anything Corbyn does.

These policies were lost in all the excited reporting of everything that went wrong on stage during May’s speech and behind the scenes as she continues not to sack her foreign secretary despite his repeated bad behaviour. They say a lot about what sort of Prime Minister May wishes she was. It does seem that she wants to make things fairer and recognizes the scale and seriousness of generational inequity but, is pouring more money into Help to Buy, regulating the private rental sector a bit and capping tuition fees as they are going to be enough to convince people she’s serious?

Brexit has become a huge distraction in our politics, one which detracts from two of the most pressing issues of our age: the housing crisis and the fact that young people aren’t going to have assets as they grow old in the same way older generations did. Sadly, the policy offerings announced by the Prime Minister are tantamount to offering someone whose tibia is sticking out of their leg a broken crutch.

I asked two millennials what they thought of the Tories attempts to get their attention, could it ever convert into votes? The answers pretty sum up where our politics is at – divided by those who have and those who have not, specifically those who own homes and those who make money from the fact that others do not. ‘I could never vote for them because I feel like they put politics before human rights and capitalism before equality’ says Rebecca 28, a renter who has absolutely no intention of going blue. Amy, on the other hand, who owns not one but two homes, one of which she rents out and neither of which she bought with her own cash said ‘I voted Conservative in the last election for financial reasons, selfish reasons if I’m honest and I’d like to vote Labour but I really don’t want to pay any more in tax.’

In a nutshell, misjudged Frida Kahlo bracelets aside, this is the real problem facing not only May but Conservatism as a whole: you’re not going to be a Conservative if you’ve got no assets to conserve.

Corbyn, it seems, can do no wrong right now. May, on the other hand, can do no right. She's currently surrounded by posh privately educated sharks vying for her job, she’s been condemned to piss off half the country regardless of what she does on Brexit and, above all, the future of the political ideology represented by her party is in peril because of the policies (and lack thereof) of her predecessors.

You know it’s bad when even Calvin Harris, maker of mediocre EDM, doesn’t want to be associated with you….

In a now-deleted tweet he wrote: ‘Conservative party conference playing my song was not approved – I do not support nor condone happy songs being played at such a sad event.’

Like this? You might also be interested in:

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Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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