Just after the 2017 General Election, YouGov released figures on the how the country voted based on age. From this, we learnt that only around 1 in 5 younger voters (18-29) voted for the Conservative Party while two-thirds of voted for Labour.
As a young person, a student and someone who voted for the Conservatives, I am part of an increasingly small group of people in the country. I want to argue what I feel the Conservatives should be doing in order win some younger voters.
The biggest policy which made my friends at university vote for Labour was undoubtedly their free tuition fee promise. This made most of my friends, even those who would normally vote conservative, vote for Labour. The chance to get rid of all their student debt, a promise we now know is more of an ‘ambition’, made them vote for Corbyn.
Since the election, the Conservatives have tried to react to this and brought in some changes to their tuition fees policy. For example, raising the threshold at which you start paying back your loan from £21,000 to £25,000 per year.
However, I do not feel this is enough. The offer to young people looking to go to university is: free tuition fees or paying £9,000+ a year, but you now get to repay it at £25,000. There is surely no contest for what people would vote for.
I think the Conservatives need to be bold and even radical in their approach and vision for younger people. What drew me to conservatism and the party was a feeling that the party offered ambition and equality of opportunity, a chance to make something of yourself no matter your background. Theresa May, has stressed this a number of times over her premiership, yet we do not really see any policies to back it up. Again, speaking to my university friends, Labour seem offer a vision of what they want in the future. The conservatives, on the other hand, are visionless. The party needs to change their image, showing people it wants them to succeed in life.
Here is what I think could attract voters:
Labour currently seems to have a monopoly over compassion, social justice and the more progressive issues which young people care about. The sheer irony is that Theresa May’s “nasty party” comments back in 2002 still haunt her party and her own leadership. However, the government’s current polices under Michael Gove to be greener and reduce plastic use is certainly a very good start to start to change the image of the party. The government need to make sure they are shouting about this from the rooftops to show younger people it cares about their future.
Young Conservative activists with Tory MPs
Emily Thornberry at last week’s PMQs raised the issue of the voting age being lowered to 16 instead of the current rate of 18. She argued that sixteen and seventeen year olds could join the army and pay taxes yet could not vote. Labour obviously see the major advantage of lowering the voter age, they would get more votes. My personal opinion, is based off the old saying from the American Revolution: ‘No Taxation without Representation’. Instead of giving sixteen year olds the vote, why not make them exempt from paying taxes. Instead of going to the treasury, let younger people keep their money or invest it into special savings accounts for their future. This could give thousands of young people a fantastic start in life and potentially allow them to save for a future deposit for a house. This would obviously not win votes from these younger people, but would allow them to see the party as compassionate and with a vision for their futures.
On the issue of housing owning your own home and having a stake in the community you live in is what drove Thatcher’s policies. The government has so far removed stamp duty for first time buyers and the right to buy scheme has and will allow thousands a step up onto the property ladder. The problem I think with it again is that people do not know these schemes were brought in by the Conservatives to give people a help onto the property ladder. Again, the government needs to shout and promote its own policies to younger people, showing people that they do care about people’s future. Of course, building more houses for people to live in goes hand in hand with this.
So to conclude, if there was one message I would give to Theresa May to entice voters to vote for the party, it would be about establishing a vision: Where do you want see the country by 2020 or 2025? And let’s show people you care about working towards that! Plus, when you have a good idea please shout about it!