How do we encourage more Conservative representation in universities?
BY JAMES YUCEL
Moving to one of the least conservative cities in the UK to study at one of the least conservative universities in the continent was not something the slick-black-haired, wrangler jeans-wearing teenage me had in mind as he waltzed into Sixth Form for the first time, nearly three years ago now. As I write this piece in the early hours of the morning, a mere few hundred yards away from where tens of thousands gathered recently to campaign for Scottish Independence here in Glasgow, I reflect on my old school in the rural underbelly of Suffolk where you needn’t look far to find a fellow young conservative.
After Boris’ historic win, it’s now clear just how much the dynamic of British politics has changed since the years of Cleggmania. In 2010, 30% of 18-24 year-olds voted Conservative, hard on the heels of the 31% who voted Labour. Fast-forward nearly a decade later, only 19% of young people voted blue, perhaps not so hard on the heels of the 62% voted for the Iago of Islington North. This seismic shift in the way young voters are casting their ballot is an issue the Conservatives need to face head-on, for if drastic steps to appeal to today’s youth are not taken imminently, herculean-sized consequences await the party sooner than CCHQ could begin to fathom.
According to Ipsos, those in higher education are almost a third less likely to vote Conservative than those not studying at university. This is a direct result of two key reasons – social media and social justice.
Social media has played a colossal part in the way people have voted in the UK for the last few years, with 96% of young people estimated to be signed up to the major platforms. As little as it helped the Lenin-loving party on December 12th, Labour gave a social media masterclass for the youth of today in the 2019 General Election with targeted Facebook ads, Twitter campaigns and Instagram challenges, indisputably reinforced by celebrities such as Stormzy, Little Mix and dare I say, Lily Allen. The reason these soundbite-infested campaigns were so effective was that they dominated nearly every student’s screen right up until Voting Day. For the Conservative Party to once again capture the spirit of students, taking a leaf or two out of Labour’s relentless social media military campaign last month would not be a poor place to start.
To give an idea of how widespread social justice is in universities today; during my freshers week, I met a fellow history student from the Highlands who was under the assumption Titania McGrath was a real person, having followed her avidly for months. The woke culture championed by the likes of Owen Jones and Ash Sakar has faced a recent backlash from comedian Ricky Gervais and actor Lawrence Fox through a series of tweets, Golden Globe speeches and BBC Question Time appearances where both men have publicly rejected the quasi-compulsory set of rules imposed on us by the champagne socialists of Shepard’s Bush. If we convince the students of today that voting Conservative, without fear of upsetting their friends, is a vote to reject the woke culture; a return to the numbers we were once obtaining what seems like aeons ago will be in our sights.
In sum, we need clarity about the specific policies we’re proposing that will benefit those in higher education, communicated through an unshakable social media campaign. If we highlight the opportunities we can offer students and muster the courage to reject the sanctimonious social justice warriors, I believe with the utmost conviction that we can untangle this Gordian Knot, paving the way for a new age of young Conservatives.
James Yucel is a writer and young Conservative activist who has written for The Glasgow Guardian, co-founded The ARC Project – a knife crime initiative – and was a campaign officer for Tom Hunt MP. Follow him on twitter: @JamesLYucel