The Tories need nuance not memes

Enzo Harrison

Topics Politics UK

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Moggmentum, the term used to describe the social-media success of North East Somerset Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, has been surprising to say the least. Some are hinting at backbencher Rees-Mogg running to replace Theresa May as party leader and prime minister. But, if he did, would it be a good move for the Conservatives?

It’s fair to say that the Conservative Party has never really been a hit with the youth vote and this election cycle really highlighted that for them. A wimpy 19 per cent of 18- to 19-year-olds voted for the Conservatives, against the monster 66 per cent for Labour. Apart from the fact that Jeremy Corbyn promised everyone a piece of the moon and the blood of a unicorn, Labour’s success with the youth was down to its MPs being unashamedly liberal in terms of gay rights and being pro-diversity.

So why does Twitter think that some dusty old fart from Somerset can win over that demographic? Realistically, he probably can’t.

If Rees-Mogg was brought under proper public scrutiny, young people would almost certainly go off him. On at least four separate occasions, he has voted against the advancement of gay rights, including their right to marry. A fact that many millennials would find hard to swallow. Even if he didn’t make his personal opinions into policy, offence culture would destroy him – no matter how good of a leader he turned out to be.

Milllenials and Generation Z are the most tolerant (or arguably intolerant, depending on how you look at it) generations to date and have strong opinions regarding social inequality. Social policy dictates their voting habits more than any other age group. That’s why David Cameron’s brand of conservatism did so well in the 2015 election. His voting history regarding personal freedoms like gay marriage didn’t ‘offend’ anyone. Studies have also shown that a fair portion of the youth are in favour of (or at least indifferent to) a free market system. Whereas, older generations are far more vocal on economic policy, caring less about social policy. A 75-year-old Conservative voter wouldn’t change their mind if the Tories introduced unisex toilets in city centres, but a young voter might like the sound of that and vote Conservative.

Cameron’s real success came from taking away the ‘nasty party’ elements from the package (he even had the party logo changed to a tree from the more aggressive-looking flaming torch), but this is something that seems to be creeping back into the party.

Rees-Mogg and his Moggmentum are merely symptoms of the party wanting to go back to its old ways. But, if the leader is seen to be a bigot, then the party is too; even if that’s unreasonable.

The Conservatives are in a position to offer a very reasonable brand of social policy that balances the rights of minorities with the Tory ‘practical’ outlook. But they need a leader as nuanced as the message itself. Not a meme.

Enzo Harrison is a writer and student based in London.

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Topics Politics UK


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