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The Right has a winning vision, but it doesn’t speak the language of today’s voters

It is voters under 47, not just the young, that the Conservatives are failing to win over Credit: Pool/WPA/Getty Images

We don’t have a youth problem on the Right. We have a language problem. No one understands what we’re talking about anymore.

If you’re 47 or under, you’re more likely to vote Labour than Conservative. I hate to break it to you Telegraph readers, but the generation born in the 70s and 80s are now comfortably middle-aged. We aren’t young anymore. It’s time to stop waiting for us abandon the folly of youth and come to our senses; we’re not going to.

The benefits of free-market capitalism are not self-evident.

It dawned on me recently, when I was preparing a speech making the case for free markets and conservatism to young people, that those of us on the Right don’t even understand each other anymore.

I asked two of my staff members what they thought of the increased enthusiasm for Corbyn. Separated by 30 years, I listened to these two Conservatives, argue about the problem with young people. It was illuminating.

My head of office vividly remembered going hungry every time there was a strike and her father lost his wages. The 3-day week, waiting months for a telephone line and how terrible British Rail was. The carnage after a Left-wing government was obvious. She had seen socialism fail, again and again. “Look at what’s happening in Venezuela!”. I watched my 23 year old researcher’s eyes deaden as she said that.

“Yeah, what about Venezuela?” he asked. “I don’t care about Venezuela. I care about what’s happening here. Yes, you waited 6 months for a telephone line, but my family’s been waiting years for a mobile phone signal in my house, the trains are still late but more expensive and I still live at home because a cheap flat is ten times my salary”.

The generational and political divides have never been wider, and some of this can be explained by how the Right uses language.

Pointing to Venezuela and thinking we’ve successfully won the argument defending capitalism against socialism doesn’t work. It was easier when people had lived through both.

My researcher was 3 years old when Tony Blair became prime minister. That’s the only left-wing government he’s ever known and it really wasn’t that scary. Arguing about the wonders of capitalism and the dangers of socialism seems a bit overblown in that context.

The benefits of free-market capitalism are not self-evident. In fact, it would be nice if we emphasised that free markets and capitalism are not the same thing.

You would have to be nearly 40 to have been an adult under John Major’s government, let alone Thatcher’s CREDIT: PAUL HACKETT/REUTERS

You would have to be nearly 40 to have been an adult under John Major’s government, let alone Thatcher’s Credit: Paul Hackett/Reuters

I’m a free marketer, but I cringe every time I hear the word “deregulation”.

When I ask anyone under 50 what they think “regulation” means, I get the same answers: “protection”, “safety nets”, and “rules”. I’ve heard business talk positively about deregulation, as if the meaning is obvious – getting rid of red tape, removing barriers to entry, that sort of thing.

Unfortunately, what the average person on the street hears is “getting rid of protections for me, so that crony capitalists can make as much profit as possible”.

“All taxation is theft!”. I remember the first time I heard this at an event for libertarians. As a healthy 25 year old with no obligations to anyone, I was inclined to be sympathetic. Less so now, as a 37 year old mother of two and one near-death experience in a maternity ward under my belt.

When people believe that more government is the solution to every problem, a small state isn’t an efficient one

As an MP, I have to be even more careful when talking about a small state and low taxes. Some of my constituents, think I’m talking about taking away their benefits, their safety nets, funding for their children’s schools and all the things that make their lives pleasant, bearable even.

How can I explain the benefits of low taxes to people who believe that the only reason some people are wealthy is because they’re not paying their fair share?

In a world where people genuinely believe the fixed pie fallacy – that a penny more for you means a penny less for someone else, that wealth is not created but distributed – policies to reward wealth creators make no sense. In fact, it’s not tax that’s theft, but wealth.

When people believe that more government is the solution to every problem, a small state isn’t an efficient one. It’s a lazy one.

Please don’t think this is yet another article about what the Conservative Party needs to do to win voters. The problem is much deeper than that, and the centre-Right is a movement much bigger than any political party.

It isn’t just young people who dig Jeremy Corbyn

It isn’t just young people who dig Jeremy Corbyn

I wish the private sector worked as hard at explaining its importance as much as the public sector.

Every party conference season, I’m struck by how much is spent on lobbying by the public affairs industry. All of it spent talking to politicians rather than to the public. If only, some of those big corporates spent a fraction of this talking to their millions of customers about the social good they do, instead of trying to get meetings with MPs to do that job for them.

Imagine if multi-nationals spent more time explaining that the majority of their shareholders are pension funds, and that many of the people criticising them have invested their futures in and are indirectly owners of the very companies they want closed down? Reducing taxes makes a lot more sense if you know it means more money going into your pension.

I believe the Right has the answers, but we are not properly explaining why the other lot have got it wrong.

We need to be seen to be offering something, not just attacking the idea of change

The key to future electoral success lies in change. Not just change in my party and its approach to campaigning, but change in the country and how the story is told.

We know that there are now more doctors, more houses and more outstanding schools than ever before but if that isn’t communicated effectively, especially to younger people, the dangers of facing a generation in the political wilderness are real.

When talking about Venezuela, Jeremy Corbyn’s questionable track record, free markets and so on we assume that people know what we mean without any explanation or comment on how we could do it better. These assumptions switch people off and dilute the message. Ditch them, I say.

We need to be seen to be offering something, not just attacking the idea of change. Simple language, simple ideas and a positive vision for the future – this holy trinity holds the key to unlocking the next generation.

Kemi Badenoch is the Conservative MP for Saffron Walden

Original article here

 

Dear Chancellor, if you patronise young voters and alienate the old you will destroy the Tory Party. Stop now!

16 October 2017 • 12:07pm

 

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, is apparently proposing radical measures to change public perception of the Government, notably among the young. Ahead of his Budget next month, he is courting ideas. Here, Rob Wilson, former Minister for Young People, offers some tips:

Dear Philip,

I am pleased that you are continuing the tradition of your predecessor and asking backbenchers for Budget ideas. As the first Budget in a new administration I know this one is particularly important; it will set the scene for economic success or failure over the period of this Government.

I am delighted that you have specifically asked MPs for their ideas about young people. The 2017 General Election result has finally created a healthy interest in this section of the electorate and a desire to find attractive and deliverable Conservative policies.

This is not surprising as it was very clear in the way they voted that young professionals and students have a very negative view of the Conservative Party.

Tax raids on the pensions and homes of older people would be an extremely bad idea that could finish this Government

My advice, Philip, is that you need some radical ideas for under 35s that reconnect to core Conservative philosophy.

These ideas need to deliver greater enterprise, a stronger more dynamic economy, home ownership and decent housing, while at the same time reducing the burden of debt on the young.

In essence Conservatives need to offer a new and fair deal for young people.

Unfortunately the ideas announced at conference failed to do so. I would also warn you that tax raids on the pensions and homes of older people would be an extremely bad idea that could finish this Government.

As a former Minister for Young People, Philip, I can tell you the first thing to understand about young people is that they are rarely party political and care about the same things as the rest of the UK electorate, although perhaps in a more idealistic way.

Please don’t make the mistake that Conservatives policies should simply focus on higher education. Young people want to understand Conservative values and have a positive uplifting view of why they should vote for the Party.

Decades ago, by winning the arguments over business, enterprise and entrepreneurship, Margaret Thatcher enthused a generation of young professionals and this is where you, Chancellor, in your budget can make the biggest difference.

  1. Let’s begin with entrepreneurship. So many young people have great ideas and want to start their own business, but lack of capital and other very basic resources stop them ever getting off the ground. Your response should be, as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, that every major town and city should have an Enterprise Centre. It should offer free kitted out offices and meeting spaces: desks, computers, internet access, telephones. Business support and advice specialists should be based in the same building giving under 30s two years free support to get their idea off the ground. Fund it through existing LEP budgets or get big companies to sponsor it – it’s an attractive proposition and the economic dynamism unleashed would mean it pays for itself many times over.
  2. Chancellor, you also need to look at the tax regime for young people to help stimulate hard work and dynamism. Due to high costs of housing, higher education and depressed wages, many young people struggle and, as you rightly identify, are burdened with debt. Young people should be better off voting Conservative, so introduce a zero tax rate and National Insurance on under-21s and a 10 pence band for under 25s. This encourages work by making it pay, but should also mean lower debts. It should over time generate higher tax income, but initially it could be funded by fiscal drag at the upper tax thresholds – and, if necessary, you could reduce the £several billion committed to raising the tuition fee repayment threshold to £25K.
  3. Housing is a significant issue for young people and I have offered advice before, Philip. I strongly recommend the ambition of home ownership is brought back to the mass of young people through a Government-backed building programme targeted at under-35s. The Government should offer 40,000 new homes to buy by 2020/21 at the cost of build and then keep recycling the money. The Conservatives must create a new generation of young home owners to demonstrate the Party cares about and will deliver hope for those people often living in sub-standard accommodation.
  4. On Higher Education, by and large the reforms made since 2010 are fair. You should keep interest payments on student debt as low as possible, but the bigger issue is that many students are being overcharged for courses.  I would go further and say that in my view, paying £9,000 per year for most University courses is simply a massive cartel rip-off. The Government should not let Universities get away with it. Chancellor, you must get a grip on this unfairness and the reduction to £7500 announced at conference is simply not enough. I would advise that the previous £6,000 cap on annual fees is re-imposed, with up to 20 per cent of courses getting a exemption to £9,000 for courses with special circumstances, such as higher cost of delivery. But Universities would need to demonstrate this for each course to the Office for Students.

Philip, this Budget is your great opportunity to reassert core Conservative values of entrepreneurship, enterprise, fairness and decency to the next generation. If we give young people the chance to be dynamic, to create business and wealth they will take it. It’s time to get back to the values that have served the Conservative Party well.

Yours sincerely

Rob Wilson

Minister for Young People (2014-17)    

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