Tories are the party for young and old

The Sunday Telegraph - - Letters to the editor -

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

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