You will never believe this. The three coolest people on campus- the editor of the student magazine, the captain of the football team and the president of the drama society- have all joined the University Conservative Association. You know, where all those spotty Harry’s hang out discussing free markets and dreaming of Margaret Thatcher. How did that happen?
Good question. Three years ago, voting Conservative for most young people would be like shoplifting Oxfam. Just wrong. When Cameron became Chief Tory Boy, only 12% of 18-24 year olds voted blue. 54% were Labour. It is a remarkable achievement for Project Cameron that 4 in 10 young people now vote Conservative, the number one choice of party for 18-24 year olds, when in 2006 it was well below the Lib Dems in third place.
Decontaminating the Tory brand has been a hugely successful strategy. The natural ally of the poor, eco-friendly, stylish: no wonder young people are proud to be out-of-closet Tories. Admittedly, it is David Cameron who has the most appeal. The party must keep up. The Tories are nowhere near the support Labour received from the young 3 years ago. So there must be no brakes on modernisation. More work still needs to be done to make the wider party acceptable to the young: a third of women should be ministers in a Cameron-led Government, more Black, Minority or Ethnic Conservatives candidates, and more cabinet members from a range of backgrounds, not just law and banking.
Why have the young fled Labour, support declining by nearly 10 percentage points since Gordon came in? After all, this was the party that gave more young people the opportunity to go to university. Why the lack of gratitude? Government incompetence over Northern Rock, lost data disks and the election-that-never-was certainly didn’t help. And old Gordo just looks miserable everytime he’s on television; Cameron, contrastingly, looks at ease and oozes coolness. Remember the young are idealists. Gordon’s narrative is overly pessimistic- its all doom and gloom with the credit crunch. Aside from the rhetoric of social breakdown, Cameron offers a positive message for the future: greater social mobility, more good schools and a family-friendly Britain
Blair must be fuming. He thought long-term: get more young people into university and be staunchly liberal compared to the social Conservatism of Hague et al and we’ll have the current twentysomethings on side for a long time. Brown messed it up. He has preferred a more authoritarian stance: obsessing about Britishness, pushing through 42 days detention without trial and reclassifying cannabis. Cameron’s liberal shift, the embracing of gay rights and civil liberties, has wooed the young and reversed all the hard work Blair invested into cultivating a generation of Labour luvvies.
Labour has also alienated young people by seemingly neglecting them after they’ve settled in at university. Social mobility is not just about getting more youngsters to university, especially from the poorest backgrounds; its about their success afterwards too. But twentysomethings are struggling. Its too expensive to get on the property ladder, there’s less jobs after graduation because of the economic slowdown and the Government has made the repayment of student loans even harden by deviously doubling the interest payable from 2.4% to 4.8% this year. Since 1997, the number of under-25 NEET’s (Not in Education, Employment or Training) has grown by 15%. Gordon Brown seems ignorant to young people’s concerns: when he announced the removal of the 10p tax band, he said only a few groups of people would suffer. That included 2.2 million low-paid young people without children. This reinforced the message that young adults are at the bottom of Gordon Brown’s priority list.
Labour is losing the support of young people. Fast. By modernising the party and promising to abolish stamp duty for first time buyers, Cameron has made the Conservatives acceptable to the young. Labour may fear defeat at the next election, but it has to start think about how it might avoid decades in the political wilderness. Lose the young of today and they may never trust you again.
- Best days of your life?
- Conservative modernisation: it's time for version 2.0
- For Tories, STV is the answer
- Home truths on the boomerang boys
- It's time for a kinder Conservatism
- Loneliness should be recognised as a signal of poverty in today's Britain
- Maternity pay just isn't fair
- New grub street
- The 'big society' must be more than a professional feelgood exercise
- The other half of social mobility
- The real cost of no-fees degrees
- We must cut speed limits
- We need more women
- Alcohol price hikes won't stop binge drinkers
- Attenborough is the BBC at its best and must be saved from cuts
- Cyclists are universally loathed
- Don't let X Factor fool you
- Freedom on the slopes comes at a price
- Here's how the liberal elite can help the poor climb the social ladder
- Home is the only place Labour's boomerang kids can go
- I fear trouble when iPOD generation hits the job market this summer
- Imaginative early years will improve our children's education
- More students don't always mean more social mobility
- Social mobility starts when you get out and vote
- The harsh reality for twentysomethings
- Time to own up - I'm just not a fan of the festive season
- Young people should start treating us geeks with the respect we deserve
- Cameron should ignore the calls for an early election: the Tories need the liberals
- David Cameron's oppressive Big Society
- Don't let the Government scrap Sure Start
- Of course the Conservatives should be the party for workers. But they must also be the party for those out of work
- Stop all this exaggeration
- Tear down the social ghettos
- The Tories should drop their obsession with small government
- The immigration issue is overshadowing the spirit of optimism which once defined Cameron's Conservatism
- The politics of love
- The right type of Big Society
- This Tory love affair with marriage must stop
- Why I, a Conservative, say Yes to AV
- Why we’re all a little liberal and a little conservative
- Yearning for the great outdoors
- A third source to boost living standards: the family
- Conservatism will wither without modernisation
- Ending school segregation is the key to social mobility
- Goldman Sachs gets into social impact bonds - but what are they?
- In defence of Cameron's conservatism
- Legalising same-sex marriages is conservative, not liberal
- Liberals are well served by the Conservative Party
- Osborne must be bold to show the Tories are not "the party of the rich"
- Osborne's attack on flexible working will harm family life
- The next stage of Tory modernisation must address the party's class problem
- Why we need a Lib Dem-Tory alliance
The Daily Telegraph
- A generation that's running too fast and getting nowhere
- Booming industries should create opportunities for all
- Childcare help could rescue the Prime Minister
- Early years education must be affordable for everyone
- Fees put universities to the test over value for money
- If degrees don't pay off, why charge more?
- Let’s talk about love to put passion in politics
- No country for young people
- Our universities must learn a valuable lesson in student economics
- Sandwich generation spread themselves thin
- Student fee protesters are opposing opportunities for all
- The X Factor dream and the hard graft of real success
- We must fight this devastating blow to families
- We must give education the power to change more lives
- We need a degree of reality about university
- Why living an 'extended youth' makes grown up sense
- Why our children should learn to love the outdoor life
- Why the Lib Dems hold the key to future Tory success
- You don't have to be nice to be part of the big society
The Huffington Post
The Progressive Conscience
LSE politics and policy
- Childcare: the good, the bad, the uncertain
- What do 5A*-Cs tell us about school performance?
- Time for some fresh thinking on childcare
- Universities in demand?
- Easing the cost of childcare
- A passport to the mainstream
- Getting bang for students' buck
- The university access question: be careful what you wish for
- The forgotten bank of mum and dad