I have been a member of the Conservative Party for just over a year now. I remember how I felt when I first joined: excited. Excited to finally be a member of the party I had supported since the 2015 election, the party that some of my heroes had led. The party that supposedly stood for low tax, less government regulation and more freedom: the three principles that fundamentally make me a conservative in both senses of the word.
But as I look at the party today, I see a party that does not excite, a party which is far past the days of Churchill and Thatcher and the party that is losing many members as a result of its inability to deliver on the issue of the day: Brexit. It’s a party more divided than ever. But still, I and many other members remain hopeful that our glory days are not behind us, but rather in front of us, and with the right leader we can restore the Conservative Party.
The Conservative Party has an image of being for the older generation, or for those in London, but having been involved in the party I know this to be untrue. Young people tend to be pro-aspiration and pro-innovation and yet they are not Conservatives. Though we are the one party founded upon these values, we cannot secure support from young people because we lack a real social media infrastructure and so our message fails to reach younger demographics. This must be the first thing any leader improve upon. We need to move with the times in order to reach the ever-growing youth vote that makes up so much of Labour's support.
But to move with the times does not mean to compromise on our founding values. The new Conservative leader must ensure they win the battle for free enterprise and a free society in a time where these values seem to be eroding. Instead, the Conservatives must make these ideas attractive again, show younger people the benefits of conservatism and the positive impact it can have on their lives. Simultaneously, me must turn around the image of being the party of austerity and cuts, and instead become known as the party that will allow them to keep more of their hard-earned money, while living free from over-regulation and a controlling government.
The Conservative Party is fractured. It is divided along the same lines as the country: Remain vs Leave. Many members on both sides are not so much leaving, but fleeing. For those who want to remain, the Liberal Democrats seem like a more attractive party and for those who want to leave, Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party are the obvious choice. In order to stop this trend and bring the party back together, the person who takes the helm must put forward a vision of unity both for the party and for the country. The best way to unite the party is to actively champion those ideals that prompted people to join us in the first place. This will help bridge the divide, bring back those who have left and actually excite current members who give up so much of their time campaigning.
To heal the divide in the nation will take more. It will take more than the terms of an exit bill, or the terms of any exit for that matter. It will require a leader with a vision. A vision to move the country forward. A vision to modernise the NHS, put more money into education and ensure Britain is a player on the global stage. To do so will require someone who is pro-innovation and pro-technology, two requisites for competing with the likes of India, China and the USA on the world stage. It will take a leader who understands and recognises the opportunities that Brexit brings, with an ability to make us a country of the future, not one of the past.
leadership bidI am sure many will disagree on the best candidate to take us forward. But that is what is so great about this leadership election: we have so many choices. At the time of writing, 13 have announced a and more look like they are lining up to do the same. These candidates will be tested on a national stage and their views scrutinised. But to become leader they must display an ability and desire to fundamentally change the image of the party, to move forward with the times, but also an unflinching resolve to ensure conservative values of freedom and liberty are at the centre of the party. Most importantly, a vision to move forward and unite the nation and the party and to bring back those members who have left us on all sides. Achieving this will ensure the eventual leader avoids the same fate as Theresa May.
I know who I am currently backing and that is Matt Hancock. He is a candidate who actually champions the idea of freedom, who understands that we must have – and has put forward – a vision for the future: one of unity, of technology and innovation. This is exactly what we need to move forward and capitalise on the opportunities of Brexit. He understands that Brexit is not just about leaving the EU but also what happens once we have left. In my opinion, this is what sets him apart from the likes of Boris Johnson and other leadership hopefuls, who are so fixated on arguing for the best way out while forgetting that, if elected, they will be responsible for steering this country and laying out our future. I am confident that if given the chance, Matt Hancock will prove to the country he has the plan and the expertise to make Brexit a success.