The Conservative Party is facing a crisis more fundamental than Brexit. Year upon year, its voting figures are diminishing, as the typically conservative, older generation are dying. Despite this demographic fact, it is failing to successfully target young voters to compensate for this decline. And so, we must ask ourselves the question - what can we do to combat this?
The electorate is now being flooded with the younger, more liberal, more socially conscious youth and it is up to the party to appeal to such voters. It is thought that as few as 16% of the voting population under the age of 35 would choose to vote Conservative in the next general election. If we wish to remain electable, it is imperative that we engage with this demographic. At a time when young people are founding start-ups and embracing entrepreneurship at a record pace, the message that the Conservative Party is the home of aspiration and enterprise must ring loud and clear, rather than the less pleasant view many young people currently hold.
Recently, we have seen a rise in the number of political figures who have been able to entice the younger generation. One such example is Jordan Peterson who has harnessed the power of social media to successfully engage young people with more conservative ideals. Across the Atlantic, we can look at examples of personalities like Ben Shapiro and Steven Crowder, who have illustrated the power of such tactics in creating a young conservative following. They show ability to both speak and debate skilfully on top of showing the wit and humour young people respond to, and though I am not suggest we align policy with what they are suggesting, there is a lesson to be learnt in the fact that they are proving successful. In this sense it shows that we are going to need politicians with wit and good debating skills in order to appeal to audiences, both young and old.
However, we are unable to win elections through charisma alone. We must implement policies which both address the issues facing young people today and yet still reflect the intrinsic values of the party, so as not to deter or disillusion current Conservative voters.
Similarly, we must restore faith and trust in the party as a whole. Controversy surrounding Brexit and ill-informed claims have led to both public distrust and unrest, and understandably so, as many such claims were made by senior party officials. It is imperative therefore, that the leader makes achievable claims without focusing their campaign on far-reaching promises that will not be realistically fulfilled by the party. If we do not address this growing problem of mistrust quickly, we have very little hope of gaining a significant proportion of the younger electorate.
Further, we must foster a strong, clear campaign message. In the USA, Trump has had great success with the iconic “Make America Great Again” slogan. Having a good slogan and a strong online campaign will be important in getting the message of the party across, but this cannot come at the cost of the substance of the policies.
Though the next step remains unclear, a post-Brexit Conservative party has a fight on its hands. It must address these issues at a time when people have lost both hope and trust in the politicians, if it wishes to live on and stand a realistic chance of re-election.
Tom Foster-Brown (Committee member, Pembroke College) is an undergraduate in his first year of reading Engineering.