Conservatives v Corbyn: How the Tory party’s policy vacuum has left them floundering among the under 45s

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George Freeman, MP – man behind revitalising Tory policies. Pic credit: Wikipedia

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Beyond the  media hype of the Brexit battle between Boris and Theresa May this year’s Conservative Party conference was a heart searching  and navel gazing spectacle.

Clearly still rattled by the result of 2017 election where Theresa May lost them their overall majority – by far the biggest topic on the fringe was how can they woo back droves of people under 45 who have deserted them for Labour.

Unusually for a party in power  there were strident calls to develop new policies to win back these lost voters. Usually parties in government can take the initiative as they have the reins of power  and can produce plenty of fresh ideas.

But the Tories at this conference were behaving like a party in opposition – a huge navel gazing exercise in a desperate search for new policies. Tory MP Chris Skidmore, policy vice chairman of the party, virtually gave the game away at a reception for the Conservative Policy Forum – when he alluded to the great revival of ideas by  Sir Keith Joseph, which propelled Margaret Thatcher into Downing Street.  But that was the 1970s when the party had lost power after Edward Heath’s disastrous performance.

David Cameron also tried to soften the image of the party – again the new ideas came when the party was in opposition in 2008.

So what are they trying to do? One of the more illuminating debates came at the  Centre for Policy Studies fringe with the intriguing title, Today’s Millenials, Tomorrow’s Conservatives?

Chaired by Times columnist, Rachel Sylvester,it was platform for two potential rising stars, Sam Gyimah, the universities minister and a late replacement, Guy Opperman, the pensions minister.

The two were remarkably honest about the dilemma.  Sam Gyimah admitted they were used to 18-21 year olds being left wing radicals but not the 25 to 45 year old age group. whom would be in work and bringing up families.

He blamed the continual war within the Tory party over Brexit as putting off young voters.

Guy Opperman admitted that they would not win by negative campaigning against Corbyn ”  We won’t win  by portraying Corbyn  as an insane  antisemitic Hamas supporting, Cuba loving, terrorist” he said.

That message did not seem to have reached the Tory party platform where Sajid Javid  , the home secretary, warned of the security risk of having Corbyn as Prime minister and May devoted part of her speech to denouncing Corbyn over antisemitism, supporting Russia, decrying Nato and appearing on Press TV.

What did they want. Well, without a real trace of irony, it was the need for momentum without the capital M.

Energy, drive, policies that were inclusive, equal pay for women, responsible capitalism, support for the NHS and more and more housing. In olden times, it would be called progressive conservatism. Guy Opperman as pensions minister, was asked by one member of the audience whether to remove parts of the triple lock on pensions to assuage the plight of the young. He was remarkably silent on this saying he did not want to make manifesto commitments at this time. Pressed afterwards he said he liked to get away from always talking about pensions.

But what was missing was any big idea on how to tackle the issues that Labour was pushing – the failure of private firms running the railways, over crowded classrooms, police and prison service  in crisis,giving workers a bigger stake in private companies. They will have to offer real alternatives to wean voters away from Labour. Their only big point was that Corbyn hadn’t the money to do anything about it without ruinous taxation and borrowing.

It is all predicated on Britain entering the sunny uplands once we have left the EU and can plan for a post Brexit society. If Brexit turns into chaos it will further alienate that target age group.

Labour should not be complacent about the dilemma the Tories face. At the Conservative Policy  Forum reception there was a strong rallying cry for people to set up constituency wide policy groups to try and draw up more attractive policies and to reach out to non Conservatives – I expect aimed at that 25-45 year age group – to participate.

Just before I left I had a word with  George Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk, one of the most active MPs seeking new Tory policies to appeal to the younger voter. Surprised to find that a hack had sneaked into the reception to hear about their plans, he jested I was only there for the drink. More seriously he asked:

” Why don’t you join  the Conservative forum and help us devise new policies?”

I politely declined, made my excuses and left.

 

9 thoughts on “Conservatives v Corbyn: How the Tory party’s policy vacuum has left them floundering among the under 45s

  1. Perhaps the Pensions Minister should start talking about pensions as that is where the policies and votes he are searching for lie. For a start, he could give back the pensions embezzled from 1950s and 1960s born women. Then, he could reduce the pension age from its idiotic heights and hoover up votes from all generations and genders.

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  2. Tell him to sort out pensioners. Give them back exactly what they paid in. Stop frozen pensioners and put 1950’s women back to 60 then gradually move everyone to age 63. Instant 3.8 million voters. You know it makes sense.
    Then sort out the welfare state back to Bevin days and we’ll all feel more secure. Leave the EU and get our democracy back then leave parliament completely and let Labour manage the banks, tax havens and elitism. That’d work.

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    • You are totally correct that the WASPI women deserve justice. Nevertheless, you repeat a common misconception about how state pensions are funded. Pensioners aren’t paid out of what they paid in. The system is designed to work so today’s NI contributions pay today’s pensions (otherwise state pensions would not have been introduced until some years after the introduction of NI).

      That means that the baby boomer generation (so-called because there are so many of them) funded the much smaller pensions of war decimated generation that proceeded them. Now that same generation benefits from a far more generous provision paid for by those younger than them. In short, the baby boomers have again been very lucky.

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      • Stephen, yes I am aware that there is no actual fund and it is paid out of today’s NI contributions – the misconception arises because you have a qualifying period and have to contribute enough years to get a pension.
        The point I was making was the decision to stop the Beveridge contribution in 1988 meant there would not be technically enough to pay out today’s pensions as a book keeping exercise.

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      • David, I was actually replying to Julie who says ‘give them back what exactly they paid in’. If the baby boomers only got back what they’d paid in, they’d be left terribly disappointed!

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  3. Maybe its to do with with demographics? Each election fewer and fewer people remember the Labour governments of the 1970’s and the Thatcher governments of the 1980’s. The word nationalisation was a suicide note for any politician or party that uttered it. For the baby boomers, they had the best of both worlds, benefiting from Labours policies of the late 1940’s and for many the Thatcher government’s policies of de-nationalisation (share ownership) and the sale of council houses( at prices well below the market value).
    Of course all good things come to an end, the baby boomers selling their shares and houses and having a good time at the nation’s expense?
    “The sale of assets is common with individuals and states when they run into financial difficulties. First, all the Georgian silver goes, and then all that nice furniture that used to be in the saloon. Then the Canalettos”. Lord Stockton.
    Now after the individuals and governments have had a good time and squandered their assets, they wake up to reality or in this case many of their children do. The finances of this country have been squandered, making the rich even richer and civil society poorer and the day of reckoning is upon us. The younger age groups have little chance of home ownership, and for many even a decent rented property. Many have zero hour contracts, which 50 years ago would be seen as the dock labour scheme. (you turn up at the dock and you may be hired for the day or just sent home). As for the dream of share ownership, you might find it difficult to find a British company, particularly among the de-nationalised one’s.
    This leads me to conclude that younger voters are attracted to a future that in many ways is the past under Corbyn. Can the Tories win the next election, at the moment things look rather bleak but not for the Tories! In mid term the opposition should be way out in front, but the polls show the two main parties rather close to each other. Maybe, having few policies may be a benefit to the Tories, ask Mrs May to remind us of her Social Care Policy at the

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