Tories are the party for young and old
Why is it that the tech start-ups of Silicon Roundabout in London, with all their independence and entrepreneurialism, are the cool career destinations of choice for the young, yet the Conservative Party, which promotes just such independence and entrepreneurialism, is not their political home? How can it be that those same young people who pride themselves on their eye for “technological disruption” are so drawn to today’s Labour Party, which adores the clunking fist of state monopoly?
This apparent contradiction is neatly summed up by Silicon Roundabout’s location: Britain’s icon of everything that is conservative finds itself on the border of Hackney and Islington, most notably represented in parliament by Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn. Is this the duo that sharp, smart, hip young Britain really wants running the country?
In an interview with this newspaper, Theresa May clearly recognises that the Leftward drift of the young is a problem for the Conservatives. Yet, in an era of customisation, it should be the one-size-fits-all socialism of the Labour Party that is endangered. To a generation that wants more than ever to express itself through greater personal choice, the words of John McDonnell, the man who would be Chancellor, should come as an awful warning. Any Labour government, he said this week, would not be giving power to the people. It would be taking it back, for the state and its apparatchiks.
As the Conservative Party begins its conference today, it must start to right this obvious wrong. Both on membership and appeal to young people, it is losing the battle to Labour. For the most part, this is illogical, for all the reasons set out above. But it does make sense for some basic reasons. The costs of higher education and home ownership have risen sharply, leaving new graduates with significant debt before they can even begin saving for deposits, which always seem to rising beyond their reach. Mrs May shows that she has been listening by pointing to university fees and mortgages.
The scale of the task should not be underestimated. At the ballot box this year, more than twice as many young people backed Labour as backed the Tories. But that does not mean it is an impossible task. The notion that young people are genetically Left-wing is rubbish: in 2014 one survey found that the Tories were the most popular party on campus. In 1979, the 18-24-yearolds of Britain voted for Margaret Thatcher to liberate them from socialism – and again, by an even bigger margin, in 1983.
Young people want good schools and hospitals – so does the Conservative Party. Young people want more funds for essential public services – so does the Conservative Party. The only question is how to generate those funds? This is the crucial argument to win. Conservatives believe in nurturing enterprise and fostering wealth- and job-creators, because taxes on private profits are the only source of state funds. They are the golden geese whose eggs pay for everything. Labour’s attitude, by contrast, is one of confiscation, envy and central control.
If you want to share wealth, you first must create wealth. When the Conservatives, under David Cameron, cut taxes for employers, lowered the highest rate of tax and the corporation rate, the result was record job creation and a bonanza for the Treasury. Overall, income inequality hit a 30-year low. So the last government – even though it was in fact timid in its cuts to public spending and taxes – actually achieved some of the goals of Mr Corbyn by doing the very opposite of what Mr Corbyn advocates. It proved that the most socially conscious philosophy is not socialism; it is capitalism.
This can only be a first step. Mr Corbyn has sweeping plans that, although utterly wrong-headed, do capture some people’s imaginations. The Tories should aim just as high. Cut house prices by increasing supply and reducing – better still, abolishing – penalties such as stamp duty. Mrs May began to lay out that case last week in her speech to the Bank of England. Her speech in Manchester on Wednesday will be her biggest chance yet to link domestic policy to Brexit, to argue for free trade and to generate excitement around this great project. From the jaws of a disappointing election result can be snatched an opportunity to revive conservatism and the Conservative Party. The young have the enthusiasm and the idealism. Older heads have ideas tested by experience. Together, they can build a century freer and richer than all those that came before.
Young people want good schools and good hospitals, – and so does the Conservative Party
Mrs May’s speech is her biggest chance to to generate excitement around this great Brexit project