General Election 2017: Conservatives Cannot Give Up On The Youth Vote

Jeremy Corbyn - Youth vote

British conservatives can no longer afford to cede the youth vote to the parties of the Left without putting up a fight for their hearts and minds

One thing seems absolutely crystal clear to me: the Conservative Party can no longer allow itself to glibly write off almost the entire youth vote and cede youth politics to the various parties of the left.

In some ways, Jeremy Corbyn seems like a most implausible politician to court the youth vote – an old, grey haired career politician with absolutely zero interest in doing anything fashionable, sartorially or politically. But my god, he is an authentic conviction politician. And if your average voter hates overgroomed, telegenic bland politico-bots then young people clearly hate them even more. Canned soundbites don’t work on social media-savvy young people, if they work on anyone. And yet the Conservatives went into battle – largely thanks to the “genius” Lynton Crosby – with an arsenal made up almost exclusively of glib, canned soundbites in place of anything remotely authentic.

Not that authenticity alone is enough. Right wing politics are clearly hugely toxic to many young people, who would sooner die than consider voting Conservative, let alone admitting any conservative leanings to their social circle. The Tories are too closely associated with grey, uninspiring “austerity”, even though austerity is largely a myth. The Tory brand, fair or unfair, is still toxic to many people. And the parties of the left have perfectly tapped into the consumerist politics of Me Me Me by promising to firehose endless sums of money into the gaping, insatiable mouth of Britain’s public services.

It seems painfully apparent to me that we need a prominent, national vessel for the development and promotion conservative policies (and personalities) separate from the Conservative Party, which simply can no longer be trusted to make the case for its own worldview. I wrote ages ago, back in 2015, that we need a British CPAC – a well funded and media savvy conservative campaign group which exists outside the dusty, dysfunctional Tories.

CPAC is the Conservative Political Action Conference in the United States, and while it has had its share of controversies it serves an important role in nurturing small-C conservative talent, seeding new ideas and generally providing an opportunity for advancement and self-promotion outside the structures of the Republican Party. It also plays a role in youth outreach, as do other organisations like Ron Paul’s Young Americans for Liberty.

The seeds of such a movement already exist – there is the excellent Conservatives for Liberty group, for which I am proud to have written numerous times. But for all the good work they do, they remain associated directly with the Tory brand and are too easily sidelined when a rabid anti-Thatcherite like Theresa May seizes control of the party and tries to drag it to the statist centre-left. Meanwhile, other think tanks which sometimes do good work (and sometimes not so good) – the Adam Smith Institute, the IEA, the Centre for Policy Studies – are very much of the political elite and by the political elite. They have neither the makings of a mass movement, nor the inclination to become one – and quite rightly, for this is not their speciality.

Worse still, the Conservative Party’s own efforts to build a youth wing tend to attract the kind of tweed-wearing teens and twenty-somethings who only further the perception of the party as being for posh, wealthy and generally insufferable types. Conservative Future, their most recent attempt, seemed to operate like a kind of pyramid scheme with promises of future candidacies dangled in front of naive young activists, and was rife with a bullying culture which led to the group’s closure.

No. For reasons of branding and basic administrative competence, any future small-C conservative movement hoping to gain traction with young people must be distinct from the Conservative Party, free of that residual toxicity and free to criticise the Tory party in government and in opposition when it proposes policies which either betray core values or threaten the interests of young people. A British CPAC and Young Brits for Liberty-style organisation could nurture talent of its own, outside the corrupting, nepotistic influence of the Conservative Party hierarchy, and would greatly increase their collective clout by helping or withholding support from future Tory election campaigns and individual candidacies based on policy, not party loyalty.

It is only through outside groups like this that the image of conservatism stands a chance of being rehabilitated among young people. It is only through a British version of CPAC or YAF that young conservative or agnostic students at university stand a chance against being steamrollered by the fashionable left-wing identity politics which are almost de rigeur for social acceptance and advancement.

Look at the people who might be considered contenders to take over from Theresa May when she is rightly consigned to the dustbin of conservative political history. Do you see the youth vote ever breaking in significant numbers for Philip Hammond or Michael Fallon? David Davis or Michael Gove? Maybe Boris Johnson might win a few, but he is widely hated by starry-eyed young Europhiles for supposedly “taking away their future”.

No, the future Conservative leader who stands even a chance of fighting the parties of the left for the youth vote must come up from outside the existing party structure, if they are to emerge at all. They must articulate a message of conservatism as being pro-freedom, pro-opportunity, pro-dynamism. Some compromises must be made, with the party finally addressing issues which screw the younger generation and force them into the waiting arms of the Labour Party – a serious housebuilding programme (not council houses, but houses for private sale and rent) for example. The end of universal benefits being lavished upon rich, self-entitled pensioners who don’t need them.

The Tories need a leader who can make self-sufficiency and freedom seem cool rather than callous, admirable rather than shameful, particularly to younger voters. I don’t see anybody on the Conservative front bench who stands a chance of doing that. Maybe James Cleverly or Kwasi Kwarteng from the backbenches, if they were to step up and gain some ministerial experience? Priti Patel?

Regardless, one thing is clear: the Tories can no longer be relied upon to keep the torch of conservatism lit by themselves. Theresa May half extinguished it with her statist left-wing manifesto, half stolen from the Labour Party, and her inept campaigning and toxicity among young people provided the final coup-de-grace.

We need a strong external repository for conservative principle, capable of engaging with young people who have been continually taught that leftist progressivism = forward-thinking “compassion” while liberty, independence and self-sufficiency from government are evidence of greed and moral failure.

Theresa May’s Conservative Party shamefully surrendered the youth vote without so much as trying to win them over. The broader British conservative movement must learn from this dismal failure and ensure that it is never repeated.

 

Rand Paul - CPAC

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 8 – Discussing Crybully Students At CPAC

The United States may have helped to incubate the crybully student phenomenon, but American conservatism also points the way towards a cure

Following on from yesterday’s Tale From The Safe Space, which focused on Oklahoma Wesleyan University president Dr. Everett Piper showing us how university administrators should be pushing back on ludicrous student demands and complaints, the video shown above develops these ideas further.

Dr. Piper made minor waves last year when he admonished his students, reminding them that they are not in daycare but rather at an adult university. And last week he was invited to speak on a panel at CPAC 2016, entitled “Campus Crackdown”.

The entire panel discussion is worth watching or listening to in full, but here is the money quote from Dr. Everett Piper, responding to a question asking why the problem of student attacks on free speech has exploded in recent years:

I personally believe it’s the result and the consequence of several decades of teaching lousy ideas. I addressed it last night in my speech to the Reagan Gala. Richard Weaver told us in 1948 that ideas have consequences. That was the title of his seminal work – “Ideas Have Consequences“. What was his point, what was his premise? Ideas have consequences. Ideas always lead somewhere. Bad ideas lead to bad culture, bad community, bad college. Good ideas lead to the opposite. So I think we’re reaping the results, to quote Barack Obama’s pastor, “the chickens are coming home to roost”.

What we’ve done is taught this ideological narcissism, we’ve taught ideological fascism and that’s really what we have today, we have an ideological fascism that’s prevailing on the college campus rather than the academic freedom that we hold dear.

The liberal arts academy was established – let’s go back to Oxford, some one thousand years ago – to educate a free man and a free woman, to liberate us, to give us an understanding of liberty and liberation and freedom and justice, and to give us the context for embracing those truths. And when we get rid of those ideas and embrace the narcissism of our time we’re gonna suffer the consequences accordingly, and it will result in a fascist attitude of “you shall submit, you shall agree, and if you don’t you shall be silenced and you shall be expelled”. That is what is prevailing on the campus today.

But the unreasoning, free speech-hating crybully students only win when spineless, obsequious university administrators roll over and submit to their demands for fear of being labelled as cavalier about student “mental safety” rather than pushing back robustly at their attempts to self-infantilise.

If this trend is to be reversed, it will only be when more university leaders like Dr. Everett Piper in the United States, and Oxford chancellor Chris Patten in Britain, are prepared to poke their heads above the parapets in defence of academic enquiry and freedom of thought and speech.

 

Postscript: And isn’t it about time that we in Britain had our own version of CPAC, an alliance of people willing and able to carry the torch for freedom, liberty and conservative-minded thought when the Conservative Party in government seem intent on betraying those principles at every turn?

 

Safe Space Notice - 2

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We Need More Political Organisations Like Momentum

Momentum - Jeremy Corbyn - Labour Party - Facebook Page

We should welcome the creation of campaign groups like Momentum, not fear their potentially disruptive effect

When the last meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party descended into an acrimonious shouting match audible to journalists listening outside, it was partly due to widespread suspicion of Momentum, the rebranded “Corbyn for Leader” campaign group which intends to continue agitating within Labour for left-wing policies as a kind of anti-Progress organisation.

Yes, there were other reasons why restive Labour MPs vented their frustrations at the PLP meeting, not least the fact that their Shadow Chancellor seems to have the political intelligence of a ten year old. But the incompetence and hard left-wingery could all be forgiven if only the bulk of centrist MPs were not terrified that Momentum might serve as a vehicle for Jeremy Corbyn to conduct a purge of the moderates, sweeping them aside in order to make room for more of his ideological soulmates.

The Telegraph’s Kate McCann reported at the time:

Senior Labour MPs have warned a new campaign group, set up by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, is a “threat to sitting MPs” and will “undermine” the party.

Momentum, a collective set up with the backing of the Labour leader and the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, aims to influence party policy but MPs are worried it is the beginning of a purge of moderate members who don’t support the leader.

One Shadow Cabinet Minister said: “They are setting up a party within a party and I fear that they will use it to take control of conference, policy-making and mount a purge.”

Much of the reporting of Momentum has thus been framed in terms of the threat the organisation might pose to centrist Labour MPs and other enemies of Jeremy Corbyn, which is interesting enough, but overlooks the more important question of whether new political campaign groups like Momentum are a good or bad thing for our democracy in the first place.

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We Need A British CPAC

CPAC merchandise

 

As UKIP’s spring conference gets underway, The Spectator makes lighthearted fun of the patriotic, themed merchandise available for delegates to purchase. And fair enough – some of it is quite kitschy. In fact, some of the trinkets remind one of the gaudy offerings you might find displayed for sale at the annual CPAC conference, currently underway in the United States.

Bloomberg reports:

The CPAC exhibition floor is about marketing, and advertising to conservatives is the same as marketing to anyone else: everything has to be unique, free, or superhero-themed. 

On the free stuff front, there are dozens of buttons, posters (including one celebrating the day President Obama leaves office), pens, steel water bottles, and other knick knacks people want more than need. The libertarian group Young Americans for Liberty gave out free “Stand with Rand” t-shirts to anyone who filled out a political philosophy form, with questions like “There should be no restrictions against law-abiding citizens owning firearms.” Each response (agree, maybe, and disagree) comes with a score, and the higher the score, the closer the attendee’s political philosophy is to Ronald Reagan.

All of which leads to some pressing questions: Why is there no equivalent of CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee, in Britain? And are not British conservatives and big government sceptics greatly in need of one?

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