In the run up to the 2017 General Election there is a clear gap in the political market, which conservatism is uniquely placed to fill, and in doing so it could create a new generation of Conservative Party members to help stave off the growing demographic problems within our Party. Not only this, but taking decisive action could be a major factor in banishing forever the spectre of shy conservatism.
Young people are increasingly put-off by grandstanding virtue-signalling and out-of-touch ideologizing when they simply want policies that are pragmatic, deliverable, and reasonable. The top of student politics (the NUS et al) and SUs like the one in Lincoln have been a partial cause of these changing views within the student body, but more than anything it is the opening presented by an increasingly incomprehensible Labour Party and the single-issue obsessiveness of the Liberal Democrats. Those students who care about specific ideology are not targets for modern conservatism: dogmatic Greens, Corbynites, Lib Dems and Ukippers may be out of reach, but the interesting group for us are those who are non-ideological.
many people seeking a government which emphasises stability and continuity, while making slow, steady changes where they are needed and where they are shown to be effective, have been left without a political home.
While pragmatic young people used to have multiple options dependant on their political leanings, the decision of Labour to abandon Blairism in favour electoral oblivion has meant that many people seeking a government which emphasises stability and continuity, while making slow, steady changes where they are needed and where they are shown to be effective, have been left without a political home.
The future of conservatism as a force to attract young people lies within this yearning. Conservatism is not, and should not be, a dogmatic l ideology, but rather it is a way of governing. A Conservative can be socially liberal and fiscally conservative, they can be socially conservative and fiscally conservative, or they can be socially conservative and fiscally Keynesian - the beauty of such a broad-church is that there are lots of different policy positions that can be advocated from within it, and everyone (or most people at least) will find a branch of conservatism that fits their worldview. If we are to encourage people to look beyond the stereotypes of conservatism, we will require a more considered effort.
Embracing ideological pragmatism to attract young voters may seem counter-intuitive, but a silent majority, or at least a silent plurality, of young voters are ready for common sense policies and solutions.
Pragmatism as a virtue is a useful way of attracting young people to conservatism. Embracing ideological pragmatism to attract young voters may seem counter-intuitive, but a silent majority, or at least a silent plurality, of young voters are ready for common sense policies and solutions. The embrace of common sense politics is important, because it is a direct counterweight to the doctrinaire nature of student politics and an ever-more ideological left. Where others support restrictions on free speech, we as Conservatives need to be loudly voicing our support for it; where others support bizarre policies and daft ventures, we Conservatives should be at the forefront of opposing them.
Young people and students are ready for a common sense, pragmatic approach to politics - as a party we need to ensure that our message is tailored to emphasise the common-sense nature of our policies in our manifesto. If we do so, a new generation of young Conservatives awaits.