The rather eerie Instagram post of Michael Fallon at Conservative Party Conference looks like my Dad, or even Grandpa has got hold of the Party’s account. Combine this with Robert Halfon’s suggestions on Monday of “social ambulances" and it looks like the Tories are having a midlife crisis.
“But this is not just a ladder by itself, it’s a ladder that is grafted by government, it is a ladder that the people are brought to by government, it’s a ladder that has a social ambulance always there at the bottom, ready if people fall off. It’s a ladder that has hands around it, to help people every step of the way.”
Halfon is right that Tories need to do more to appeal to younger voters. However, free bus passes, fuel cards and free insurance for those on lower incomes really aren’t the way forward: it concedes Labour the argument. Why vote Tory if they're going to copy Labour policies on tuition fees, the public sector pay cap, and energy price caps anyway? Might as well go for the Real Red Thing! May and co. have also clearly been reading the same economics books as the Labour Party with their £10bn pledge for Help To Buy.
So what should the Tories do to get the youth vote?
By youth vote I mean, graduates under 30. Yes, telling under 47s you voted Tory is like saying you killed their dog, but how to win back under 47s is another blog post. So, they could start by listening to the message of rising stars like Kemi Badenoch MP. Speaking the ASI on Tuesday, she made the case for free markets to a large crowd of young people. I implore you to watch her maiden speech where she reminded the Conservatives of their identity: defenders of liberty and free enterprise, and champions for a meritocratic society, aspiration and personal responsibility.
My 3 suggestions...
Firstly, build on the Greenbelt & transform restrictive housing policies. It’s pretty simple economics: there’s a massive lack of housing supply in London, and there’s land we could build on but don’t because we think it’s sacred. It’s not. A considerable amount is made up of carparks, hardly Constable’s land. And if we built on just 3.7% of it, that would provide us with 1 million homes. Build out and up.
This is really important for scooping up the youth vote: rents in London gorges on about 50% of young people’s disposable income in exchange for rabbit hutch in zone 4. And buying a house is simply not on the table: I would have to earn £200,000 in today’s money to reflect the proportion of income spent on mortgage payments comparatively to someone in the 1950s.
Home ownership provides people security and used to be engraved into every Conservative manifesto.
Secondly, embrace social liberalism: legalise cannabis, decriminalise prostitution and for God’s sake drop the xenophobia. Firstly let’s look at legalisation of cannabis. If you legalise it you can regulate it, rake in tax, reduce the figure of £10.7bn that’s currently spent on drug related incidences and lower gang crime.
Decriminalisation of prostitution is the right way to tackle the injustice in this industry. My arguments for this echo my arguments for legalisation of cannabis. Decriminalising it allows you to regulate it, rake in tax, but most importantly provides sex workers with independence and liberty to work in safe environment: they can report violent customers and work with more than one person - this is currently not allowed, leaving sex workers more vulnerable to assault.
My housemate Sarah, a staunch Labour voter, always refers to me as “nice Conservative”: I think this is mainly due the fact that she perceives me as socially liberal. And that data proves that Sarah is representative of the electorate. The Tory Party have a massive PR problem with potential metropolitan voters liking their economic policies but thinking they're nasty or racist. Introduce policies along these lines, and the electorate will see that Conservatives are the party that give you personal freedom and choice.
Finally, back the likes of Uber and AirBnB. Voting Labour and using Uber is incredibly hypocritical. Unfortunately not everyone understands why this is hypocritical: if they did, perhaps they’d be a neoliberal. But the fact is not enough people made the connection with the fact that regressive and protectionist policies are hallmarks of the Labour Party.
The Conservative Party took 3 days to respond to the Uber ruling, doing nothing to bolster this connection. Gig economy firms are the epitome of free enterprise: many Uber drivers who are accountants, shopkeepers, students etc use Uber as a second source of income, indicating the Uber workers are enterprising, opportunistic and aiming for maximum utility with their time. And the same goes to renters or homeowners who rent out their rooms on AirBnB whilst on holiday, they’re prepared to work outside their normal remit to earn that extra bit of money - just like Deliveroo drivers too.
There are some people Tories may never be able to win, but it should be easy to win over success-driven and well-off young creatives and city workers. The Tories have got to get yuppies openly saying “Maybe the Tories aren’t that bad. They’re reason I can get home safely this evening and the reason I’ve got more disposable income is because I can rent my room out when I go home for the weekend.”
In summary, the Conservatives need to return to its best instincts instead of dressing themselves in red clothing. With things like energy price caps, and more taxpayer funded social housing, they’re trying to be something they’re not - what’s next, rent controls? Instead of harping on about socialist Venezuela, a concept most people struggle to see the relevance with, the Conservatives should make a positive case that they are the party of economic and personal liberty. Then and only then will they have a chance to ward off Corbyn and his band of merry pinkos.