1. Money

    Sam Ashworth-Hayes

    What reason is there for young people like me to vote Tory?

    What reason is there for young people like me to vote Tory?
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    With a sense of reluctance, I went into a voting booth this week and ticked the boxes corresponding to my local Labour candidates. My rationalisation was simple: I wasn’t voting for Labour, but against the Conservatives. 

    There is a tangible stench of decay surrounding the Tory party at present. At best, it is incapable of maintaining moral standards. Barely a month passes without some MP's embroilment in a grubby scandal involving sex, money, or both. The party has no vision for the country, no agenda beyond targeting the young to pay for the old. And if you judge them on results, well, there's even fewer reasons to vote Tory.

    The Conservatives have been in office for over a decade. What are their economic achievements? Prices are rising; wages are stagnant. Inflation is set to reach ten per cent this year, while growth is expected to be negligible until 2024. 

    You could argue that this has been caused by global factors well outside of the government’s control; the disruption Covid caused to supply chains, lockdowns in China, war in Ukraine. But although the government doesn’t get to choose the hand it's dealt, it does get to choose how it plays it.

    Rishi Sunak’s response to a country where people are getting poorer has been to demand more of their money; the overall tax burden is set to hit its highest level since the 1940s. In just two years, Boris and Rishi have matched ten years of Labour tax rises under Blair and Brown. Support for household energy bills has been miserly. Raising benefits? Sorry, can’t do, government IT systems won’t let us. Reinstate the pensions triple lock? Ah. That one is possible.

    It would be easier to face a period of stagnant growth and rising prices if the bust had been preceded by a boom. We can expect to be no better off in 2025 than we were in 2019, just as in 2012 we had finally caught back up to 2007. Seven years worth of meaningful growth between 2007 and 2025 is not an economic record that inspires confidence, particularly when you consider just how anaemic that growth was. In real terms, we’ll be earning less in 2025 than we were in 2008. The only things growing in Britain are prices, taxes and pensions.

    But perhaps all this pain was for some greater benefit? We didn’t grow in the last 18 years because we were setting the stage for the future. After all, the Conservatives under Cameron told us they were here to shrink the state and unleash private enterprise. And year after year, the state expanded. 

    Under Boris, they told us that they were going to unleash businesses, hacking away at EU red tape. Then they transposed the EU’s worse regulations into British law, and declared war on tech firms. Now there’s an actual cost of living crisis, they’ve decided to think about deregulation. Shouldn’t that be their default position?

    It’s not even as if we have European public services to show for our European levels of public spending. While the government funnels ever more cash into the NHS, waiting times are through the roof. If you’re a young person hoping to see a GP, you can probably forget about it. As a share of GDP, Brits now spend almost as much out of pocket for private healthcare as their American cousins do. And while the Tories brag about putting bobbies back on the beat, they’ve not yet replaced the officers they cut.

    We didn’t even see a decade of low interest rates turned into a surge in infrastructure investment. We didn’t get electrified railways across the North, we didn’t get world-leading road networks and we still don’t have a third runway at Heathrow. The Oxford-Cambridge Arc looks to be dead on arrival, HS2 keeps getting trimmed back to save money, and the housing market remains a mess, with price growing almost twice as fast as wages since 2000.

    So why did I vote for Labour? The Conservative vision for Britain is a care home with an army attached, and given current trends I wouldn’t bet on the second part standing 20 years from now. They offer nothing for young people. The underlying rationale for their policy mix is simple: the party effectively exists to service the demands of rent-seeking pensioners, whose wealth is tied up in housing, who won’t be around to benefit from investments today, and who vote consistently to raise their own benefits.

    Stuck between a Labour party that despises me and a Conservative party that actively wants to drain me of my money, I’ll vote for the former until a third way becomes viable.

    Written bySam Ashworth-Hayes

    Sam Ashworth-Hayes is a former director of studies at the Henry Jackson Society. He has an MPhil in economics from the University of Oxford

    Topics in this articleEconomyMoneyPolitics