The Tories face a struggle with young voters, but hope is not lost

 
Christian May
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Conservative Leader Theresa May Addresses Party Conference
If an election were held today, just 16 per cent of those under 35 say they would vote Tory. (Source: Getty)

Where do Tories look these days to cheer themselves up?


Until recently they could console themselves with their party’s relative popularity compared to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, but those polls are tightening and when voters are asked for their views on specific areas of policy from housing to crime and the NHS, it’s the Labour party that comes out on top.

Furthermore the delivery of Brexit seems to be a lose-lose for the Tory party, with Remainers turned off and Leave voters likely to be disappointed by the eventual outcome.

Despite this landscape of despair, some Tory MPs are determined to focus on the future – and not just those who fancy a shot at Number 10.

The centre-right think tank Onward has pulled together 41 new generation MPs from the Conservative benches to endorse a major report on how the party can win the elusive but critical youth vote at the next election. At first glance, it’s a monumental uphill struggle.


Onward’s report finds that the “tipping point age” where a voter becomes more likely to vote Conservative than Labour is now 51. Prior to the disastrous 2017 election campaign it was 35.

If an election were held today, just 16 per cent of those under 35 say they would vote Tory. But the report also finds that 28 per cent of that age group are prepared to consider it.

So what could lure them into the blue camp? The good news is that it doesn’t entail emulating Corbyn’s hard-left policies.

In fact, Onward finds that over 60 per cent of 18-24 year olds agree with the idea that “people should be allowed to keep more of their own money.” In other words, tax cuts.

There’s also good news for deficit hawks, as just under 60 per cent of young people say they want a government that “prioritises living within its means”.

Elsewhere, defending free speech, protecting the environment, tackling “badly-behaved” companies and help with student debt are all areas that fire up the youth vote.

When we try to look at the future of domestic policy and the state of our political parties, it’s tricky to see around the Brexit-shaped roadblock, but the Onward report can help – and it could help the Tories, too.