The Conservatives have long been a party seen as void of young members. Still reeling from the Elliott Johnson Conservative Future scandal, and considering the many images of empty halls littering the #CPC18 Conservative conference hashtag, it’s easy to see why many see the Conservatives as a party in decline. Void of new members, ready to be put to rest.


Spot the under 30
Spot the under 30

When I was in the press gallery listening to the speeches, at times, a near-empty hall, it was clear the party is in deep trouble. Never has the saying ‘Old white men in grey suits’ been so appropriate for an event. The lack of youth representation on some of the youth zone panels themselves just reinforced how bad the situation is.

Yet, there is a creeping movement that could be a lifeline for the Conservatives. At the final youth zone panel on ‘Transform Ageing’, the panel talked about how to empower the next generation. With MP Tom Pursglove saying that ‘more needs to be done to get younger members’ voices heard within the Conservative Party’.

Cllr Kirsty Finlayson speaking at the Youth Zone’s Transform Ageing Panel
Cllr Kirsty Finlayson speaking at the Youth Zone’s Transform Ageing Panel

The youth voice on the panel, Cllr Kirsty Finlayson, shared her experiences as a councillor. The often ageist reaction she got from people within the council and residents shows an intergenerational divide that can often push young people away from politics. CEO of the National Youth Agency, Leigh Middleton, stated the absurdity of this saying that, for example, ‘young people in the care sector have more experience than adults’. Age is just a number, but like any prejudice based on nothing other than something you cannot change, there is very little logic in it.

Rather than being deterred by this, Kirsty from Young Conservative Women was pushed to do more, using technology to mobilise her generation to win over her much older rival. Yet this wasn’t the first time someone from Young Conservative Women was the youth voice on a panel at the Youth Zone.

While the main Conservative Youth wing was nowhere to be seen, her

Joely Garland speaking at the Youth Zone’s ‘An economy that works for all’ panel
Joely Garland speaking at the Youth Zone’s ‘An economy that works for all’ panel

colleague from Young Conservative Women, Joely Garland, spoke at Monday’s Youth Zone event on ‘How to make an economy that works for everyone’, run by UK Youth. She stated the need for removing stigma in apprenticeships. A much-needed consideration, since our blind headlong obsession with academia is not catering to everyone’s different learning needs.

These young people show a refreshing level of grounding in reality and a new style of politics —  something that is rarely seen by the youth wing of the Conservative Party which is often riddled with miniature MP wannabes who scream white privilege.

Whether its intentional or not, this under the radar group have been mobilising and could provide the lifeline the Conservative Party desperately need. Without the luxury of Labour’s huge swell of young members, there is a very real threat to the Conservatives’ survival.

Will they finally recognise the youth talent hiding in their ranks or will they continue their blinkered march into irrelevance? Only time will tell.