Are the Conservatives losing the generation game?

The Conservatives are set to become unelectable as older voters die off through “natural wastage”, warned the Conservative MP and Justice Minister, Phillip Lee, at last year’s Conservative Party conference.

Reports that the Conservative Party is ageing out of existence may be premature, but there can be no doubt that the party and its voters are becoming older. The pollster, Ipsos Mori, reported that all the swing to Labour in the 2017 general election was among the under-44-year-olds and highest of all among those aged 25-35.

The demographic time bomb that threatens the Conservatives is most notable in urban areas and non-more so than the Capital, where Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is expected to see an increase on its 2014 London elections results, which saw the party win 43 percent of the popular vote.

The Conservatives face an existential problem in the Capital that is now seeing several big hitters from within the party pick up the mantle to reverse a worrying trend for Conservative strategists that will, if not halted, see the party lose the crown jewels off Wandsworth, Westminster, Hillingdon and Kensington and Chelsea – if not this year then in 2022.

It is argued that Conservatives do not have the right policy platform or the values to win in a city that is younger and more diverse, then the rest of the UK. On policy, the Conservative message to Generation Rent and Remain voting residents seems frail at best. And on values polling conducted in 2017 by the former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, Lord Ashcroft, highlighted that the party has never managed to dispel the doubts that many people had about its character and motives. This situation can hardly have been helped by the disastrous London Mayoral campaign in 2016 – nor more recently by the Windrush debacle.

Several solutions to the problems that the Conservatives face have been mooted and the shake-up at Conservative central office is a good start. However, what is really required is a root and branch review of the party in London and other major cities. To thrive the party needs to be bolder in its policy offer and to reconsider how it engages young people (and that means more than retail marketing a.k.a social media) to not only vote for but also actively campaign on behalf of the party.

Young people in the Labour Party see themselves as being on a moral mission. I am not sure the same can be said about the Conservative Party.

If the party doesn’t act now it faces not only a London (urban problem) but a far more serious electoral challenge. People do not live in London forever and the more urban residents in their thirties and forties move out, the more the political compass of the wider south-east will begin to shift.

We can thank the housing shortage for much of that trend.

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Nick Vose

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