Since the General Election, we’ve been inundated with hyperventilating Tories panicking about how Corbyn has mobilised the youth vote, potentially condemning the party to future electoral doom. Calls for pro-youth policies flooded Tory social media, with suggestions ranging from the amending of tuition fees to the construction of new housing in the hope to improve the party’s image amongst the young.
But Corbyn did more than stand on a pro-youth platform: he made sure they were engaged in the political process, using their passion for change to his advantage (albeit through offering them a socialist utopia). From canvassing to commanding social media, young members of the Labour Party contributed to Corbyn’s success, forcing a hung parliament and quite literally screwing over Theresa May’s leadership and authority.
What Labour excelled in the Conservatives lacked: clear youth engagement. Ever since the terrible scandal which saw Conservative Future shut down, CCHQ seems to have ignored calls for a new youth wing. The results of this could not have been more obvious: youth turnout increased to 57% in 2017, up from 14% from 2015. 66% of these young people voted for Labour, whereas a measly 19% voted Conservative. And rather than take a long, hard look at themselves, many Conservative commentators dismissed this as the young voting for ‘bribes’.
It’s clear that to command the political scene a political party must appeal to a cross-section of society. Alongside other factors, appeal to all age groups is important – and arguably young people can be a party’s greatest asset. The political scene on university campuses is always lively, let alone the fact that many students have more free time to campaign compared with older voters. Despite these benefits, CCHQ continues to turn a blind eye to a youth wing.
And what has a lack of direction from Conservative leadership resulted in? Poorly managed grassroot fringe groups, aiming to fill the gap that Conservative Future left. None of these groups seem competent at the slightest, with the recent launch of the monstrosity ‘Activate’ taking this lunacy to a new level. Many of these groups are trying to create a Tory rip-off of Momentum, and in doing so wasting time attacking the opposition rather than positively persuading the electorate to vote Conservative. Even more worrying, let alone damaging, these groups have questionable leadership and standards, full of individuals with poisonous political ambition looking for a way into the limelight.
Rather than allowing this cycle of doomed youth groups to continue, why doesn’t CCHQ take command and establish an official, regulated group under direct control of the party? A group which can rival Momentum but not stoop down to their level, governed by appropriate rules and standards? In this time of political uncertainty, where the polls are tight and public confidence in the government is low, it is crucial that the Conservatives embrace every opportunity which could lead to future electoral success. A youth movement has the potential to do this, not only helping consolidate support over the short-term but also ensuring the party has a bright, sustainable future.