CF – A Concerning Future
In this, my first article on GossipTory, I may inspire a small bit of controversy. Some of you will most certainly disagree with what I’m about to say. I would point you to On Liberty, a classic work, of (admittedly liberal) philosophy by John Stewart Mill. “However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that, however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth.” It is with this in mind that I write this article.
I worry about the current negative attitude among our generation towards the Conservatives, and I worry to what extent we as a group are causing this. If we are to have any hope of winning elections in 20 or 30 years time, we need serious image, and more importantly, attitude reform, and we need to start now. These will be some harsh words; I intend them not as criticism, but as a wake up call.
Ask the average young person on the street their perceptions of the Conservative Party. I can tell you now, it’s usually not good. I’m fairly confident that the majority of you that have been canvassing or expressed your views publically will have taken some sort of verbal abuse, be it teasing or genuinely malicious. I know I have. This used to frustrate me; I couldn’t understand why the majority of our generation had this perception of us? Sure, the cuts affected people badly, but I truly believe we’re all in it together, and that cutting the deficit is the right action to take to deal with the mess Labour left behind.
It’s dawned on me that it’s not the policies of the party that cause our unpopularity. Our party’s values truly are the right ones for the country, who let the poorest own their own homes, who lowered taxes on small businesses? I could go on for hours about the good things this party has done and is continuing to do. No, our unpopularity arises because we retain the image of the party of the rich, not striving for the utility of the population as a whole, but indulging in self interest. This image stops people from seeing the fantastic policies we implement. As the younger generation it is our duty to change this perception. Instead I’ve heard many blame this attitude on the stupidity, ignorance or naivety of our contemporaries. This is of course, not the case, and I challenge anyone who believes they can explain the current negativity towards the Conservatives amongst young people by reference to some supposed common attribute teenagers share. We have acted for too long like a private members club in which everyone knows each other personally, instead of an inclusive party for all. We need to take a step back and realise that we have lost touch with huge swathes of the population.
This is notable from a regional perspective; personally I can’t help but notice that currently CF is very muchLondondominated. I would like to say at this point that there is sterling work being done to change this, and events have taken place in cities such asManchester. But we are the Conservative and Unionist Party. Where have the huge swathes of activists we saw unleashed during the BackBoris campaign been when there have been elections inScotlandorWales? Or even in the North of England? We may be making progress attracting people fromLondon, but we have as a matter of urgency got to widen our appeal, currently too little effort is being made to reach those in other counties, and when it is, it’s for private events for Conservatives, doing nothing to attract additional members. We have probably the most important referendumBritainhas ever seen approaching, the referendum on Scottish independence. If we are truly serious about losing theLondonpublic school boy dominated image, we must mobilise and start gathering support in the Northern counties. It’s something we should have been doing a long time ago.
Perhaps even more crucially than the regional bias that hinders our image is the perceived class image that surrounds Conservatives. Do you think it’s surprising that people see Conservatives of our generation as snobs when at one “casual” dress code CF event, the majority came wearing suits? Or when members choose to smoke fine cigars, or get taxis around town instead of taking public transport? A twenty minute walk away, there’s teenagers who can barely afford their dinner, buying a good suit would be hopelessly unrealistic for many, something that many members seem to forget or even scorn. Unfortunately, the image of the private school boy marauding around town drinking port, smoking cigars and spending daddy’s money just hasn’t disappeared. Why? Because it’s sometimes close to reality. I have met too few who genuinely care about the plight of those less well off in society and too many who will openly scorn them. I am not saying this is the majority of members, far from it; it’s a minority, but a large enough one to worry me.
So what are we to do to change this image? I don’t have all the answers, but I truly believe that as a group, Conservative Future can play a big part in changing the attitudes of the current young generation towards Conservatives. The current national exec and branches up and down the country are doing an exemplary job already. But I can say we need to spend less time complaining about what wine is on offer and guffawing about politics (which I really do enjoy) and more time getting out there in the community and not just to drop leaflets through doors or stick up posters. I would propose compulsory social work for all Conservative Future members, truly in keeping with the idea of the Big Society that so often we ignore. We have to show the, though I hesitate to use the word, “normal” teenager why being a Conservative is appealing and what we have to offer them as a political party! We can put on as many wine receptions, suited up balls and put out as many posters as we like, but that’s going to do absolutely nothing to attract the next generation of voters that we so desperately need.
Many of our generation feel we are a world apart from how they live. That’s because we currently give the perception we are, and too many wish to keep it this way. This is stupid from a tactical, election focused perspective, but also from a social stability perspective. Those that may not be interested in politics or can’t afford that fine suit, they’re our equals and deserve your respect, not to be scorned from a self righteous position. True Conservative values embody equality of hope; hope that belongs to every single person, not just those that are most educated, or the richest. One only has to look at Thatcher’s council house policy to see that electoral success arises when we address the aspirations of the entire nation, not just the small, richest cliques. Not only this, but addressing the hopes and aspirations of all is the morally right thing to do. Many of those not interested in politics, or at the lower end of the income scale would be far better politicians than our current crop of supposedly future MPs, having truly experienced the hardships that the majority of Britons have to go through. Perhaps then we would also end this partisan, damaging rubbish that I have got so used to hearing amongst our current membership. That’s another article for another day.
I am a Conservative and proud, but if this attitude persists in the party, I am not sure how long I wish to wear the badge.
Please do contact me with your opinions on this; I really am interested to hear from anyone, whether you agree with me or think I’m the devil incarnate. You can post a comment on this article, or if you’d prefer, e-mail me.
I would like to thank Thomas Hatton for his invaluable input into this article, it is very much appreciated.