In this day and age parties don’t win elections just on policy announcements, and even more facts are being put in second place. Substituted for them is the personalities of those in charge, who can deliver the best message for a positive change, and which leader can battle it out in a TV debate best.
Selling ambition is what won us Conservatives elections, and under David Cameron we shined. The ambition that we could live in a society where females feel more confident entering the workplace, and taking on more senior roles. Where we champion the idea of gender equality, and make landmark changes that allow same sex marriage. And of course the setting up of the National Citizen Service scheme which gets young people involved in group activities, promotes collaboration and sparks ideas.
And we as a party need to continue to do this, with an ever greater momentum than ever before. We as a party need to push harder to get young people back from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, because the failure to do so will certainly lead to losing more seats particularly in London which is changing fast. I personally believe we are on the right side of the argument in many things- that we give young people the dream to own their own home and make them keep more of their pay packet. This is all good stuff, but we need an inspiring vision to take this message forward. You don’t just say that you favour free- enterprise, liberal democracy and choice and pack up home and think you’ve persuaded- no- people need to remember that the ideas of nationalisation, state control and high taxation can burden you even from a young age…you need to win the argument for every generation.
And this is where we messed up at conference this year. Catchphrases of the “lion roaring” and the “British Dream” seems more of a substitute for the uncertain reality we are facing in Brexit negotiations that isn’t producing results, rather than spurring momentum and getting people pumped for what we can achieve after leaving the EU.
Young people want more integration, certainty for their future, and a more caring society… and leaving the EU is slapping all this down. We are advocating to young people that the unknown is better than the current situation we are in of high employment, a reducing deficit, and high foreign investment. Playing with their future to the tune of “everything will be fine once we leave” and that we will magically appear better off economically once we leave is a fantasy. One because no country has seriously proposed a tangible trade agreement that matches the benefits of being in the single market, and two because once we leave, we become competition- and firms don’t take prisoners. The certainty for young people and their future job prospects is dampened when companies such as RBS, HSBC, Namoura and others publicly say they are seriously considering to leave, whilst Bombardier is about to lose 1,000 and BAE Systems announced today that it’s to axe at least two thousand, is actually putting the fear in people that the ‘dream’ is more a catastrophe waiting to happen, and that the economy is going to take a big hit.
The solution to limiting the future negative economic gloom is simple, our party needs to unleash the pro-business pro-young entrepreneurial side it always had. We need to set out an economic policy which gives tax relief to new businesses being set up by young people, and we need more young business forums which generate ideas and fuel confidence among people to get out and actually invest and do business.
Getting young people on the side of Brexit can be achieved if we propose upbeat policies promoting start-up businesses after Brexit. Because young people want to know the government will assist them after Brexit- that through grants, seminars, and government schemes that focus on young entrepreneurs, we are still the party of business, and we support businesses more than ever as we leave the single market and customs union and venture onto new global horizons.
Integration with Europe can still be a growing ambition after Brexit. A deal that reaffirms a similar current situation of integration regarding research, university collaboration, right down to joint international development projects is something that will not only benefit our institutions that work closely with the continent, but also advocates Britain’s soft power after Brexit- that despite us leaving, we are willing to cooperate for the general good, and that we can make life better for all our continents citizens.
And that is exactly what young people want to hear. Not that we abandon our previous commitments and get hostile over a settlement payment with Europe, and that all we talk about is trade, but instead we promote integration with our closest partners and allies and want to make a success of this, and that we still care for the 48% here in Britain-mostly young- that want our country to be part of that big project next door.
We as a party lost a great opportunity last week to show that we can unite under a banner that advocates a relationship with Europe promoting both our citizen’s freedom, integration in a formal manner, and that we will get a good deal for young people that doesn’t effect their future economic prospects. We have a huge hill to climb, but it’s always worth remembering what makes our party great;
Making the impossible-possible, selling ambition, and of course forming sound economic policies which makes Britain a model internationally of how to manage, and form, an economy which works for everyone.