Archive for mars, 2018

The Conservative Party and Young People in 2018

vendredi, mars 23rd, 2018

The Problem of Commitment to the Conservative Party

A personal view by BCiP Member Peter Huggins:

The CPF paper and covering note* set out the scale of the problem and the background to it in a clear and coherent manner. However, the nature of the problem needs further clarification.

The CPF paper speaks of two thirds of young people ‘supporting Labour’ at the last general election. This reflects the proportion of young people voting Labour. To speak of ‘support’ in this context is misleading. Authoritative and broadly based  survey results demonstrate unequivocally that young people voted Labour for two main reasons unrelated to left-wing ideology:

  1. They found the degree of Europhobia of the Labour party less alien than the more radical Tory version, or at least that of vocal groups in the party;
  2. The Labour party promised them relief from the financial burdens of higher education, especially university education

On point 1), survey results have showed that young people were particularly influenced by the expected worsening of job and career prospects through Brexit. They were also influenced by wider social and cultural considerations. To a young Londoner, Vilnius or Budapest or Coimbra are less remote than Dundee or Scunthorpe were to an older generation. Young Britons do not have a strong feeling of identity distinct from that of the Rest of Europe. To them, most of the rhetoric of the Brexiteers is simply anachronistic. When I was young and my parents spoke of the Boar War, it sounded almost like something from the Old Testament. Many young people appear to locate Brexit arguments similarly far away from their own interests and concerns.

*Reference is to the documentation for the Conservative Policy Forum of 22nd February 2018 and the BCiP response to which is the subject of the previous article on this blog.

Young people in a slightly older age group had other reasons not to vote Conservative. For example, they linked Conservative policies to the lack of affordable housing and to commuting costs which many were aware to be by far the highest in Europe.

Point 2) is very straightforward. If promised free university tuition by one party and tuition financed by massive personal debt by the other, rational self-interest implies choice of the former.

To those  in yet older groups and with wider political and economic interests, the choice was something like that suggested by Heseltine: – five years in the salt mines with Jeremy Corbyn or a life sentence with Boris Johnson in cloud cuckoo land.

There follows an obvious  answer to the central CPF question: ‘What should the Conservatives be doing in policy terms to help restore the confidence of young voters?’ The answer is obvious but its proposal at a Conservative conference would be distasteful heresy. The overwhelming majority of young people are staunch remainers who are not optimistic about the party changing its Brexit course.. Some might be won over by concessions on university fees but the majority will vote for other parties unless the Conservative party changes heart on Europe. For the moment, it seems more attracted to the Brideshead Revisited world of Jacob Rees-Mogg. The party can take consolation from the fact that 95% of the  95+ age group of Conservative voters doubtless share the views of Rees-Mogg. (Jacob, of course, not his very sensible father who ran The Times so successfully.) In doing so, it risks ignoring the fact that only one in five or so young people voted Conservative at the last general election. If the party really wants to win back the young, it must honestly and competently produce arguments and policies to convince them that Conservatism corresponds better to their aspirations than the Labour and LibDem alternatives. The job will be particularly difficult in coming months because of the May local elections. These will be dominated by pro-remain London  with its enlightened, moderate and popular mayor. Skill will be needed to present a convincing Conservative message against the pragmatic and plausible Labour message for London already in place. This message is quite distinct from the ‘loony left’ message of the national Labour leadership.Extraordinarily, the sympathy of the CBI and the City may favour Labour rather than the Conservatives in the May elections

Education, Training and Employment

Finding an under 30 Conservative voter is rather like sighting a Dartford warbler, a rare event worthy of excited reports negating with relief the assumption of extinction. A major factor in the alarming decline of the young Tory  species is that of concern about education, training and employment. At this time of the year, the annual cycle of company recruitment to graduate traineeships starts to get under way. When times are good, this is a season for optimism and celebration as graduates begin to reap the benefits of their studies and move confidently into a new and exciting phase in their lives. First reports on 2018 suggest that UK companies will be recruiting 10/20% fewer graduate trainees this year because of Brexit uncertainties. This is a depressing situation for those in their last year at university but also an alarming indicator about the way UK-based companies see the future. Many have already announced plans to be less UK-based in the future or even to move their HQ from Britain. There is ample evidence for this in reports from the CBI and other employers’ organisations. The City is especially pessimistic. Somewhat more anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a similar trend in apprenticeships, an area anyway long-neglected in the UK compared to Germany, Austria the NL, Scandinavia, Switzerland and other top-end OECD countries.

The CPF note on training and education is thorough and comprehensive. In the main,  it provides a good starting point for government policies to help the economy and young people at the same time as restoring confidence in the Conservative party. If  British  industry, commerce and the financial system are to thrive or even survive in the post-Brexit environment, effective training and education are  essential. Furthermore, the UK government also needs  to think in terms of replacing in the British economy the Polish plumbers, Slovak nurses, Italian hotel staff and French IT start-up aces and all the other bright young people  who may be  repelled by Brexit.

While the CPF note is generally competently written, it does seem to deviate from the traditional Conservative free market doctrine in making the prediction of technological trends rather too much a government function and too little a function for the private sector. Perhaps this is related to a certain breakdown of confidence between the party and employers’ associations whose views on economic prospects do not concur with the Brave New World Brexit ideology of many party members.      There is also some influence from the hard Brexit invent your own facts school.

Too much weight in the note is given to trendy mantras about digitalisation and robotisation linked with neo-Luddite warnings about how these developments will destroy jobs without creating new ones.      Beware also techno-bandwagons.  For example, those now pontificating about the need to prepare for all electric car fleets can learn a lesson from the past. The majority of taxis in New York in 1900 were electric and the electric car, not petrol or Diesel, was then expected to dominate in future. In fact, within half a dozen years,  the market for electric cars collapsed for just the reasons that now, without generous government subsidies, it might not survive. Then as now batteries are too heavy, take valuable space, provide only a limited range and require expensive infrastructure with big questions about who pays.

This is not to say that governments should not be thinking about future techno-trends. They should but not without listening to the players in the market and their organisations. And government should let private investors punt their money on expected trends, not risk tax-payers’ cash.

Fortunately there are valuable mines of information on education and apprenticeships  to be exploited by the government and the Conservative party. Inter alia, I would recommend the regular reports that the OECD makes on education and apprenticeships and the very good Oct. 2017 report by the Dep. Of Ed on further education and skills in England.

Possible Conclusions

Rather than prejudging the results of reflections by the party at this stage, I would recommend scrupulous honesty  in approaching the young voter crisis. Boris Johnson campaign bus slogans  alienate rather than convince the young. The struggle to bring young voters back to the Tory fold requires intelligence and dedication. Bombastic and unfounded propaganda is counter-productive

Peter Huggins, BCiP Member



Training & Skills for a 21st Century Workforce – BCiP’s Conservative Policy Forum (CPF) Response

vendredi, mars 23rd, 2018
CPF Group: British Conservatives in Paris (CPF Group)
CPF Coordinator: Paul Thomson
Email address:  
Number of attendees Student <25s Other <25s 25-40 >40
    2    0    0    8
Date of meeting 22nd February 2018
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1. Whose responsibility should training be: the citizen, schools and universities, the employer, the state, or all of them?   –  ALL OF THEM 

In the Armed Forces when you sign-up all training is paid for in return to several years’ service, but this is not the case in the rest of the public sector. Is this fair? What new contract might we offer our citizens?  –  NOT DISCUSSED


2. How might a Conservative Government seek to boost productivity across the UK?  –  PLEASE REFER TO OTHER ANSWERS


3. In what ways could the UK build on its world-class reputation for training and expand opportunities for lifelong vocational education and training? Do we need a top-down national skills programme or a bottom-up sectoral or geographical approach?  –  (i) There is too much emphasis on university studies at the expense of technical studies/training.  The Swiss sytem should be noted:  20% go to university; yet the country has one of the most competitive economies in the world (as well as a vibrant democracy).   (ii) Public awareness should be raised as to the export of British engineering services – asserted by a participant to be the largest source of GB exports.   (iii) The disinclination to pursue “STEM” might be countered by different evaluation methods at the secondary level.  Some secondary students may be put off following a STEM area of specialisation on the grounds that it would make it more difficult to obtain a place in a better university.   (iv) More innovative schools like the Paris region one now quite famous called “L’Ecole 42” (founded by Xavier Niel) which uses innovative pedagogical methods to encourage young people (from a variety of backgrounds) to be inventive and development an entrepreneurial bent would be desirable.   (v) More drawing on the successful apprenticeship systems used in Germany, Switzerland & Austria – which ensure a trained young work force corresponding more to employer/market needs and thereby also reducing youth unemployment.  (In France there is also a university level version of the same idea, involving alternating between formal studies and work in for an employer.)   (vi) The quality of the teaching of science in the UK leaves something to be desired:  that likely discourages some young people from embarking on further studies in science.


4. In what ways does training need to catch up with the changing skill requirements of modern technology? Are there any new and innovative models of training in your area that could be used elsewhere?  –  SEE RESPONSE TO Q3


5. How should a Conservative Government deal with possible widening income gaps arising from increased automation?  –  (i) One younger participant:  hands off (ie redistribution not welcomed)!   (ii) An older participant:  moving to ensure minimum income levels possibly including redistribution mechanisms may have justification in certain circumstances.  The government has a responsibility to take care that society does not unravel.   (iii) Cf the “gig economy”.  Some considered this to be a promising avenue for individuals to be active in the economy (though the real-life relative impact on personal financial outcomes – income & wealth levels for example – were not explored).


6. What policies should a Conservative Government adopt to balance the need for improved training and productivity in the UK with any desire to reduce our reliance on skilled technical expertise from abroad? How might these be paid for?  –  (i)  GB should “copy” the US in leveraging defence spending to stimulate both research (in companies & at universities/research institutes etc) as well as business development for the GB economy not just in the defence sector but in other sectors where applications of technological advances first achieved in the defence sector could be discovered/developed.   (ii) At the same time cooperation agreements (allowing for sharing of IP, marketing rights etc) with suitable non-GB partners should be encouraged especially where GB is not in a position to “go it alone”.  Defence cooperation arrangements and the broader relationship in this regard with France is a positive example.   (iii) Separate from (i) above:  increases in levels of defence spending could have a positive effect by ratcheting up the leverage benefit stimulus impact to a higher level.


Other Comments (if any)

A.    On positioning of the Party and certain of its leading figures:  (i) One young participant:  the party is not considered “cool” by young people:  a handicap.   (ii) A different young participant:  the party needs to stand up for itself – its values as well as its policies – more generally and with more assurance:  this would enhance credibility & appeal including to younger people.   (iii) Re J Rees-Mogg:  the young participants:  JRM has a “serious following” among young people.  He has authenticity; & does not hesitate to stand up for monarchy & British values & culture.  Support for him among young people is not tinged with the irony (or professed irony?) signaled by some young people with respect to Boris Johnson – which did not appear to indicated that BJ was not also genuinely appreciated by younger people.

B.   On CPF Brief 17-4 re Youth (as to which we regrettably missed the 31.12.18 deadline and which, to catch up, was discussed at the same 22.2.18 meeting):   (i) Young Participants:  the Party needs to be more aggressive in going out to find young supporters.  (ii) Idem:  … and to welcoming those who do express interest (some offputting experiences of bad management of the same were described).   (iii) Idem:  … and to be more modern in its modes of communication – using more & better such instruments as SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter etc – more friendly and more efficient.   (iv) More marketing savvy was needed:  cf Corbyn’s “coup” by appearing at Glastonbury – deemed effective politically by the the young participants.   (v) Should the glorious history of the Party be played up?  Views varied.   (vi) Re the economic deck of cards stacked against them (for the young):  (a) The young participants did not seem too fussed by this (perhaps not in the line of fire).  (b) Some of the older ones though thought there were real issues to be addressed; and that if they were not addressed in a substantial way the Party would risk substantial political damage among the younger generation because their “plight” is entirely real (not imagined) & is characterized by a simultaneous accumulation of structural disadvantages that can jeopardise their individual economic development & well-being for their entire lives.  If not all older people deign to take cognizance of this, the vast majority of young people are painfully aware of it and it can colour their view of society & politics in a not insignificant way.   (vii) Selling Brexit to young people?  (a) A young participant:  difficult because ski holidays may become more bothersome to organize – ie if a visa might now be needed.  (b) An older participant:  Brexit is inherently unsellable given the current state of uncertainty.   (viii) Tuition fees etc:  (a) It was pointed out that on the Continent such fees in most universities are nominal – how therefore could one say there is no alternative thereto?  (b) The rate of interest charged on student loans (semble 6.1%) was considered apparently by all to be outrageously – and mind-bogglingly – high (in view of current low market interest rate levels).  (c) On the question of lower tuition fees there was no consensus – with there being apparently support for the status quo, for some drawing back from the same (some fee reductions), & for a return to the pre-Blair levels.   (ix) Cheaper Housing for Young People:  (a) Expansion of housing supply was diversely appreciated as a concept:  (I) some did not want new housing “in their backyard” eg on greenbelt or otherwise vacant land nearby; (II) others though it was indispensable to increase supply by significantly increasing building activity – given the ongoing disequilibrium between supply & demand overall.  (b) Disincentives to absent owner-“occupants”:  several agreed that the market was suffering significantly from the distortions caused by wealthy investors taking up housing to invest/park wealth not otherwise engaged.  The marginal benefit to these people, not necessarily all British citizens, should be compared to the marginal detriment to those completely frozen out of the housing market and/or forced to live at huge distances from their place of work, to spend inordinate amounts of time in public transit etc (and many in this latter group may be British citizens – therefore having a certain call to having their needs taken into account by the political decision-makers).  Several considered that higher taxes on empty housing units would be justified; though all did not necessarily support this idea.  The idea of limiting/strictly regulating purchases by foreigners/non-residents of housing was not discussed, however, due to lack of time.




What do you find useful?  –  The two briefs covered above were considered to be of very good quality by the participants – well organised, presented & articulated. 


What you do not find helpful?


Do you have any suggestions for how we might improve future briefings?


Thank You.  Please return to:

Overseas Elector Bill – Erika Angelidi, Athens

jeudi, mars 8th, 2018

From Erika Angelidi, the Conservatives Abroad Representative in Greece:

Ιn view of the 23rd February 2018 when the Overseas Elector Bill successfully passed its second reading in the UK Parliament, I wish to express some personal thoughts regarding the issue of the right to vote for Expatriates.

I personally believe that each British citizen who resides outside of the UK, even for a longer period of time, does not cease to be interested in the present or future of the UK. He is of British citizenship and this is something that he carries throughout his life. To refuse the right to vote to a UK citizen based on the date where he left the country to live elsewhere is equal to being cast off. This argument does not reflect emotions alone, it goes deep into the connection of the mother country and its people, the very bond of citizenship.

Besides this, a question of properly exercising civil and political rights is raised. It must be noted that each Party that is voted to power decides on, promotes and applies different policies regarding its citizens who live abroad. In view of this fact, it is obvious that a citizen living abroad must be able to vote in favour of the party that best represents his interests as a British citizen and as an Expatriate.

Let us hope that this Bill will eventually be brought into Law and provide that all British citizens living abroad will have the right to vote regardless of the time they stopped having residence in the UK. British Expatriates are a part of British society and contribute to its dynamic and welfare. Expatriates deserve to vote for life!

Erika Angelidi,
Conservatives Abroad Representative,