‘You can’t trust the Tories’. It’s definitely a phrase you’ll have heard somewhere, even if it is just in the Facebook comments of some politically charged post about new government regulations or the sale of NHS property. It isn’t a new concept either, the name ‘the nasty party’ has been around longer than I have been alive! Yet Conservative MPS, pundits, and think tanks, all seem to be missing that this sentiment runs deep in the British public, not simply amongst hardcore Corbynistas.
The Conservative vote share in the 2015 general election amongst 18–29-year-olds was a respectable 32 per cent to Labour’s 36 per cent, but by 2017, that share had dropped to around 20 per cent compared to Labour who took almost two-thirds of the vote. Conservative Party membership has now fallen below 150,000 and they raised just £1.5 million from the party membership in 2016 for the 2017 general election, compared to Labour’s £14 million.
I did an interview on my podcast with Sam Ancliff of Activate UK recently and I was keen to ask him what he thought of the disconnect between policy and action in the Conservative Party. He was quite frank and admitted that, ‘a lot of time the party doesn’t know what young Conservative voters want to receive from their government’.
This statement is proof that some Conservatives are aware of the issues that the party is having in terms of connecting with new voters. Just days after the 2017 general election, Damien Green was pushing to have a national conversation about tuition fees in order to try and win back young voters disillusioned by spiralling student loan debt. He urged for the party to ‘recast our core beliefs in a manner that captures the prevailing mood of the era’. Whilst George Osborne, despite his resignation from the party, commented that ‘if the party doesn’t move towards the centre this will be its last spell of government’.
There is no shortage of Conservatives growing increasingly concerned that they are losing the younger generations, so in an effort to try and win back disaffected millennials there have been a number of strategies put forward by various MPs, activists, and think tanks.
Norfolk MP, George Freeman suggested a ‘Conservative Ideas’ Festival’ after seeing Jeremy Corbyn’s Glastonbury appearance. In order to help revitalise the grassroots of the party, the Adam Smith Institute put forward a millennial manifesto that included house building, drug legalisation, and lower NI and council tax contributions for under 30s. Some young Conservatives and former campaign manager, Gary Markwell, have put together a replacement for Conservative future — though it remains to be seen how long that will last.
The issue is that the Tories have already proposed many of the policies that could win over some voters. These include, energy price caps; boardroom pay-caps; building 1.5 million homes by 2020; reducing migration to tens of thousands; reducing the national debt; and promising to be the ‘greenest government ever’, to name but a few.
The problem is that these policies never come to fruition and people simply become apathetic to the promises; they don’t trust them to deliver. Take Activate for example. They stand for, according to their website, a fair and open Britain that promotes environmentally-conscious business and development and pushes to create a generation of home owners.
Yet these issues are not adequately addressed or pursued by the Conservatives. They just sold off the Green Investment Bank to a consortium led by a firm with a history of asset stripping. And despite promising to build 1.5 million homes by 2020, just 162,000 were started in 2016/17 — well short of the 250,000 or more that are currently needed each year. Of these, 137,000 were private sector builds, so of the homes being built, the government are having very little involvement. As Political Provocateur point out, there is a serious disconnect between their actions and words.
The Tories may have realised they have a policy problem, but the trust problem runs much deeper. They have U-turned on so many manifesto policies since the election that the next time an election comes around, many people won’t believe a single word — and that is a precarious position for them to be in.
By Josh Hamilton
Editor at www.thejist.co.uk
Host of Chatter