Many within the Conservative party believe that winning the youth vote is impossible. Long-running
trends in our elections have created a defeatist attitude amongst Tory MPs. I believe that this
defeatism is misplaced, and a right-wing party is ideally suited to winning the support of young
people. My strategy focuses on planning reform, lowering taxation, and combatting crime, which is
hardly controversial. Tories do not need to ditch their principles to win the youth vote. If anything,
their now-forgotten Thatcherite principles would revitalise the country.
Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!
Jeremy Corbyn cannot be written off as a mad communist, as tempting as that may be. His
campaigns made a genuine attempt to galvanise young people – increasing youth turnout and
securing a comfortable majority amongst under-25s. Furthermore, Corbyn was an unashamed
idealist. His ‘can-do’ attitude was desirable to those who have grown up in a country in decline.
Whilst many (including myself) will argue that his policies would not have made Britain a better
place, he certainly dared to dream.
To older voters, Corbyn’s policies were a re-run of the socialist 1970s – and quickly evoked memories
of The Winter of Discontent. To younger voters, Corbyn’s platform was a breath of fresh air. My
generation has grown up in the afterglow of Thatcherism, where it does seem like the good times
are over. We came of age during austerity and bore the brunt of spending cuts whilst pensions were
triple-locked. I do not think Jeremy Corbyn was a particularly impressive politician – and that should
fill you with optimism. His success can be easily replicated. He consolidated the youth vote whilst
holding views that (in isolation) are not necessarily popular amongst young people.
A 2021 study by Redfield & Wilton Strategies suggests that young people are more right-wing than
commonly believed. When asked whether they would be more likely to vote for a party that
‘proposes raising taxes and increasing welfare spending’, or one which ‘proposes reducing taxes and
decreasing welfare spending’ – 59% of respondents aged 18-24 chose the latter. Their data indicates
that support for raising taxes and welfare spending steadily increases with age – with 62% of those
aged 65+ opting for the party of tax and spending. Once you take a step back, this makes much
sense. In Britain, young people do not see good returns on the money they pay to the state – whilst
older adults receive fuel allowances and assistance with paying for their care. If this study is
believed, young people voting for Corbyn were protesting against the current economic system –
specifically, extortionate student loan payments – rather than endorsing democratic socialism.
Arguments about the political ideology of Britain’s youth aside, one thing is certain: we are all faced
with many common problems. If you want to win the votes of young people, you must understand
our political priorities.
Housing is the single biggest issue for young voters. The political party which accepts this will
ultimately win the youth vote. Currently, every party ignores this truth and kowtows to older, NIMBY
voters. MPs from each party are guilty of using their position to rail against local developments and
(god-forbid) planning reform. Last year, a by-election was fought and won in opposition to
housebuilding. Following their defeat at Chesham and Amersham, the Johnson Government
watered-down their proposed planning reforms. The original plans included the creation of
‘development zones’, which would allow automatic planning permission for new projects –
sidestepping local councils.
Political opposition to planning reform is rational, of course. The likelihood to turn up and vote
reliably increases with age. The most paramount voter for almost every MP is at least 45 years old.
Individual MPs will never be the ones to push for widespread planning reform because they are
focused on keeping their constituents happy. Following Chesham and Amersham, Tories in so-called
‘leafy southern constituencies’ know they cannot take their majority for granted. Such an ambitious
national project must come from the top. We need a Prime Minister who has the bravery to push
forward these reforms and make the argument for the long-term.
According to The New Statesman, the average rent is now 15% higher than in early 2020 and stands
at £2,193 in London. Young people – the productive lifeblood of any city – are being priced out of
our capital. Housing prices are affected by supply and demand. The only way around this supply
problem is the loosening of archaic planning regulations, which have been in place since 1947.
Expensive housing has many hidden effects, as explored in a fantastic essay by Sam Bowman, John
Myers, and Ben Southwood. Their thesis stresses the importance of housing prices to the entire
economy and convincingly argues that our planning system stunts Britain’s economic potential. One
of these hidden effects is productivity. When housing is too expensive in high-productivity areas,
potentially productive people are priced out. This means that people who can live in these high-
productively places are less productive than they could be because they cannot combine their skills
with the complementary skills of those who have been priced out. According to an American study, if
three cities – New York, San Jose, and San Francisco – were to loosen their regulations against
building dense housing to the national average level of restrictedness, millions of people would
move to jobs that made the best use of their skills. This would lead to total US GDP being 8.9%
higher and average American wages being boosted by $8,775.
London is the heart of our economy. The capital accounted for 22.7% of total UK GDP in 2019 – and
in the ten years leading up to it, London saw 49% GDP growth compared to 33% across the rest of
Britain. But, with the Conservative Party’s shift towards targeting Northern, working-class seats, they
would be wise to remember what keeps the lights on.
London’s potential, however, is being kneecapped. Young, productive people have been priced out.
The Conservatives should be the party of homeownership. Margaret Thatcher understood that
homeownership was vital to the survival of British democracy. If I cannot own a home – where is my
stake in society? There is a historic opportunity to build a positive legacy and be remembered as the
government which ended the housing crisis. The Prime Minister who takes this brave leap will be
honoured amongst the most impactful British politicians, such as Aneurin Bevan and Sir Robert Peel.
It would be nothing short of revolutionary and lead to an economic boom.
Young people are being squeezed through aggressive taxation. Nowhere is this more shameless than
the announced 1.25% rise in National Insurance, which will actively punish young people for
choosing to go to university. Young graduates earning more than £27,295 will pay a marginal tax rate
of 42.25% – 20% income tax, 13.25% NI, and 9% loan repayments. As mentioned before, whilst
paying into the system, young people do not get anything back. Government tax-and-spend is
increasingly a wealth transfer from young to old.
This NI rise was to pay for a cap on social care spending, intended to prevent older adults from being
forced to sell their homes to pay for care. Sound familiar? When Theresa May suggested that such
sales would be a good thing – putting more houses on the market – Jeremy Corbyn smeared it as a
‘dementia tax’. Theresa May subsequently removed such convictions from her manifesto and abandoned any opposition to the cap. Johnson has gone even further, doubling down on his loyalty to pensioners – 25% of whom are millionaires.
Whatever happened to Britannia Unchained? That was a glimpse of a party with starry-eyed
ambition. The book outlined a bold economic vision for Britain, powered by low taxes and
innovation. The book was co-authored in 2012 by four current cabinet ministers – Kwasi Kwarteng,
Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, and Liz Truss. Britannia Unchained was forward-thinking and concerned
with Britain’s future generations. Following our exit from the European Union, ‘Singapore-on-
Thames’ became a buzzword for this idealistic, unashamedly capitalist Britain. Unfortunately,
nothing has come to fruition. So far, Brexit has been a wasted opportunity by all accounts.
During the 1990s, John Smith – a pivotal forefather of New Labour – launched a Prawn Cocktail
Offensive. After being viewed as dangerously left-wing, the new leader tried to reach out to the
business world and foster a strong relationship with the financial sector. This laid the groundwork
for Tony Blair’s dominance of British politics.
Once again, Labour smells blood. Their new shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, called the NI raise a
“tax on young people”. Reeves is a hard-nosed Blairite who aims to make Labour a pro-business
party. With the highest tax burden since World War II brought in by a Conservative Government, this
will not be a complex argument. The Blairite reconquest of the Labour Party is happening as Johnson
cements his vision of tax-and-spend, big-government conservatism. If the Thatcherites are unable to
win back control of Downing Street, another party – maybe Labour, maybe the Liberal Democrats,
maybe Nigel Farage – will flank the Tories from the right on the issue of taxation.
The Tories are currently saved by Labour’s incompetence when handling the media. The average
voter has never heard of Rachel Reeves and could not tell you a single economic policy proposed by
the opposition. You would be incredibly arrogant to believe that this will continue.
Tax cuts should be the bread-and-butter of the Conservative Party. Instead, we have tax hikes on
working people, which hit my generation the hardest. This is not sustainable. It displays the cynicism
of the Tory Party when viewing young people – because it is assumed that they will never win our
vote, they do not even attempt to. However, we will not be young forever, and a political strategy
that relies on support from the asset-rich cannot stand the test of time if the up-and-coming
generation is held-down and robbed. Thatcher created a generation of loyal capitalists who owed
their millions to financial deregulation. Does anyone below the age of 60 owe their success to the
policies of David Cameron, Theresa May, or Boris Johnson? The longer we go without economic
growth, the more likely we are to descend into arguments about wealth redistribution and regional
inequality – sound familiar? A Conservative Party unwilling to cut taxes has no political future.
Law and Order
You may not associate law and order with young voters, but you should. It is another example of a
(potentially) winning issue that no politician will dare touch. Life as a young person in Britain is very
perilous. This is because we are – for lack of better words – always in the wrong place, at the wrong
time. We spend our Friday nights (having a great time) in the centre of danger – visiting nightclubs,
stumbling from cocktail bars, getting trains home on our own. Our active social lives put us in far
more danger of urban crime than older voters. So do not be fooled by drug-addled ‘ACAB’ hippies in
Bristol – that is hardly a representative sample. Generally, young voters want the government to be
tough on crime.
One disturbing ‘reality of life’ in big cities is mugging. It is generally accepted by young people living
in our capital that you should not take phone calls whilst walking outside without keeping your wits
about you because thugs on scooters are prowling the roads looking for such easy prey. This is not
acceptable. Mugging should not be part-and-parcel of living in a big city. However, police officers can
still face charges for ramming these thieves off their mopeds. A strict approach to apprehending
muggers, paired with harsher sentences for those found guilty, would tackle a problem that has
become so bad for young people that many accept it as a peril of everyday life.
Gang violence in the capital is out-of-control. Last year, London recorded its worst-ever death toll
from teenage homicides – with 30 boys and young men killed in 2021. Of course, the nature of gang
violence means that most of these victims will be gang-affiliated, but law-abiding citizens are
affected too. Civilians are regularly caught in the crossfire of these shootings. Natalie Bignell will
never walk again after catching a stray bullet during a shootout between two rival gangs in Hackney.
It would be very remiss of me not to discuss violence against women. In England and Wales, a total
of 40,572 women were victims of sexual assault in the year ending September 2021. This is the
highest number of sexual offences ever recorded within twelve months. Those statistics are
objectively disgusting and – when paired with the anecdotal evidence, we have all heard from
female friends – paint an unflattering image of the Home Office. The Conservative Party should
evoke the words of Michael Howard: “prison works”. Howard was prepared to ride roughshod over
judges and prison reformers to pursue the ‘Law and Order’ so often spoken of but no longer acted
upon. It is simple: put more rapists in prison, and for longer.
Nevertheless again, this is a matter of legacy. No one wants to be remembered as the Home
Secretary who covered up the grooming gang scandal because of vague notions of political
correctness. Young people – especially young women – will not feel genuinely safe until the
government proves that it can be tough on crime.
If polling is to be believed, 74% of Brits support the greater stop and search powers that have been
given to police by Johnson’s Government – which includes 61% of both Labour and Liberal Democrat
voters. Whilst these figures do not account for age, it would not be unreasonable to assume that
those affected most by crime are keen for the terror to end.
Tying yourself to ‘Law and Order’ is generally accepted by conservatives as a no-brainer. However,
Tories do not meaningfully exploit the fact that Labour is devolving into a pro-crime party, stuck
between a coalition of human rights lawyers, rehabilitation wonks, charities, and liberation
organisations – who have criticised Starmer for his unwillingness to ‘defund the police’. Now should
be an opportune time to exploit the chaos which Labour have found themselves in and become the
undisputed party of ‘Law and Order’. Policies that strengthen the police’s ability to protect us from
violent criminals should be at the forefront of any Conservative manifesto.
In the meantime, a quick gesture of goodwill would be to liberalise pepper spray laws. Today,
pepper spray is classed as a firearm and its ownership, carry, and use by ordinary citizens is banned
under Section 5(1)(b) of the Firearms Act 1968. The state should be able to protect its citizens from
violence, and if it cannot, it should allow the citizens to protect themselves. Unfortunately, in
Modern Britain, neither of these is true. The police cannot protect you whilst banning you from
protecting yourself. Until the Home Office can get its act together, young women should be allowed
to carry a potentially life-saving deterrent.
Beware the False Prophets
Currently, the mainstream belief amongst conservatives is that youth support can be won by moving
leftward. Social liberalism is the name of the game – with some MPs spending considerable time on
‘trans rights’, proposing reforms to the Gender Recognition Act. Unfortunately the hobby horses of
young Westminster staffers are not representative of the broader electorate. In these socially liberal
endeavours, I do not see a vision for winning the youth but rather a desperate attempt at
outrunning the ‘nasty party’ label. Tap-dancing for student union communists (who will never vote
Tory) is not a sensible use of time.
Red Tory instincts must also be ignored. Young people are ambitious and individualist. The prevailing
view that they are intrinsically left-wing is inaccurate. The unpopularity of capitalism amongst my
generation is entirely justified: we do not own any capital. The British economic system extracts
from the young to give to the old, fostering intergenerational resentment. Red Tories – and other
‘post-liberal’ types – are the ultimate reactionaries. In their fight against an imagined neoliberal
Britain, they propose returning to the simplicity of strong trade unions, a generous welfare state,
and industry nationalisation, boasting social conservatism and opposition to the “woke mob”. They
believe “woke politics” to result from of the free market. In reality, it is quite the opposite:
government regulations – and the state-backed Charity-Industrial Complex – force corporations to
be “woke”. Tory Socialists have overdosed on the populism of 2016. I outgrew the ‘left-wing on
economics, right-wing on culture’ trend by my twentieth birthday – I advise you all to do the same.
You will not win our votes by promising ‘stronger communities’ and a ‘return to tradition’.
Finally, it would be best if you rejected the anti-growth cult of Extinction Rebellion. A common
misconception about environmentalist lunatics is that they represent young people. Commentators
and politicians alike refer to XR – and Insulate Britain – as if they are a mob of “woke lefty
teenagers”. However, a glance at videos of these protestors glueing themselves to the road reveals a
scene of grey-haired pensioners. Their politics aim at punishing young people even further: banning
cheap flights; attacking consumption; and opposing just about anything which could make this
country better – whether that is building high-speed rail or chopping down the Bethnal Green
mulberry tree. Young people do not support there deranged geriatrics. If an (apolitical) shows me a
video of Insulate Britain blocking a road, it will most likely be complemented with: “why doesn’t
someone just beat them up?” I am yet to hear someone I know – my age – speak a single word of
support for disruptive climate protests. The Conservative Party must avoid being seduced into
adopting a strict green agenda that alienates young voters even further.
I did not include a section on energy policy in this piece because it would have been a single
sentence: build more nuclear power stations.
Politics Focused on the Future
Optimism is missing from today’s politics. People are drawn to forward-thinking leaders and want to
take us into the future. In many ways, our politics is deeply reactionary. What are our current
choices? Both main parties seem stuck in a kind-of post-Blair consensus with little sign of movement.
Every time the Conservative Government proposes a half-meaningful reform, a faceless mob of
NGOs and charities quickly declares it unlawful. Government ministers spend their days complaining
about ‘the woke mob’ whilst being entirely unaware of the legislation that codified such practices
into law (see: The Equality Act 2010; The Communications Act 2003). The Conservative Party is not
currently offering a positive vision of the future, only managed decline. ‘Levelling Up’ has been quickly revealed as a cynical, aimless piece of pork-barrel politics – often tapping into resentment for London and promising to share the capital’s wealth. The Labour Party is very much the same – it is still quite unclear what a Starmer Government would do. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats appear
very comfortable being a localist, anti-growth protest party. The landscape looks bleak, but things
can change very quickly – and hopefully, we are listened to.
In general, politicians have completely overcomplicated the task of winning my generation’s
support. It is simple: reform the planning system, cut taxes, and make our cities safer. That is how
you orchestrate your very own youthquake.