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Postcard from Manchester: Tell them about Venezuela… and the pine martens

Conservatives envy Momentum's recruitment capacity as they debate how to attract more younger voters

03 October, 2019 — By Richard Osley in Manchester

Charlotte Kude said young people like to ‘rally around a cause’

GIVEN how often Momentum is wildly talked about in daily discourse like a brutal guerilla platoon that will stop at nothing until, I dunno, the railways are renationalised, it’s interesting how the left-wing group’s sworn rivals seem so keen to reproduce how it operates.

The M word popped up at least three times in a fringe meeting discussion, gamely hosted by the Daily Telegraph, on how the Conservatives can attract more younger voters. The occasional strand was: We might not agree with Momentum but we sure wish we could organise like them.

It hadn’t actually been possible to organise many young people to feed into or listen to the debate on Tuesday. Around 20 members, mostly over the age of at least 35, had gathered in the marquee.

The familiar joke was that you couldn’t trust “young people” to get out of bed for the meeting’s 9am start; it was not discussed further as to how effective riffing about what time lazy bones young people get out of bed would be at convincing them to join up.

There was an agreement though that being a Tory wasn’t always “cool” for young people, and then a sharing of ugly stories of how student Conservatives have been physically attacked for their beliefs while at university.

But the thrust kept coming back to how young left-wing supporters loved wrapping around more exciting causes, than strong and stable, fiscal prudence.

Camden member Charlotte Kude, who once was in the mix to stand as a Tory council candidate, spoke as chair of the International Young Democrat Union. She said young people in the UK did not see “closed” examples like Venezuela, where she said people were walking to Bolivia trying to sell worthless Venezuelan bank notes to tourists.

“Those are young people, our age, who have had their opportunities taken away by the purest, vilest form of socialism,” she said. “Young people like to rally around a cause and I think we need to make more of a conscious effort to try and talk about those situations. And what could happen here.”

It’s not just Venezuelan economics which could get the young engaged, the meeting learned. They love climate issues – and they were animal lovers too, explained Telegraph reporter Helena Horton, areas she said where the Tories were strong but needed to get the message out to young activists.

Boris Johnson had been the first PM at the G7 to raise whaling with Japan, she said, adding: “I wrote about it in the Telegraph. I was sent it before he said it, they said ‘here’s an exclusive about what I’m saying about whaling’ – and then he also went to the UN and went around speaking to everyone.”

She said the party had a radical animal rights manifesto, adding: “Even yesterday the Conservative government released a bunch of pine martens into the Forest of Dean.”

And she’s right. You never hear what Momentum’s policy on pine martens is.

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