Activate proves the Tories have absolutely nothing to offer young people

The young Tory campaign group's message resonates... with designer-clad Nazi-teenagers who want to gas ‘chavs’.

The Conservative party has spent nearly a decade ruining things for young people. It almost seems like they enjoy it.

Under-25s have been specifically targeted by damaging policies including but not limited to: raising tuition fees, axing housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds, excluding young people from the new living wage, and scrapping EMA for college students. They have also been disproportionately harmed by the creation of a harsher and more unfair society. After all, it is pretty difficult to find your place in the world when you are on a zero-hours contract, living in poor quality, insecure and expensive rental accommodation, with inadequate access to healthcare.

Yet in an act of supreme arrogance, the Tories appear to have decided this week that the reason their youth vote is steadily ebbing away isn’t the futures they’ve snatched, but the lack of a snappy, grassroots movement like Labour’s Momentum.

Rather than promising free education, healthcare, employment rights or social housing and waiting for a positive response, they decided to solve the problem by launching Activate: “an independent national grassroots campaign organisation that seeks to actively engage young people in the right of centre politics”.

They must think young people are supremely stupid.

Momentum grew from the bottom up out of a need for change. People with lived experience of the harm caused by Conservative policies rallied around Jeremy Corbyn because Tory austerity is literally killing people, and the Labour leader helped them imagine a different future.

The Conservatives are in power right now and Britain is an increasingly bleak place to live — so what do the Tories have to inspire young people with?

The party seems to think reality is of no consequence in winning votes: they don’t need to change, they just need to improve their propaganda. Setting up an empty shell of an organisation and expecting a campaign of energetic young people to flock around some bad memes is not only patronising but demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of how grassroots organising works.

Unsurprisingly Activate was quickly and ruthlessly ridiculed, with several parody accounts popping up on social media almost immediately. But perhaps more telling is that within 24-hours the group had made a mockery of itself — and in doing so held a mirror up to the out of touch, elitist and thoroughly nasty ideology of the Conservative party.

In a trajectory that shows just how disenfranchised by the Tories all but the strangest, nastiest and most out of touch young people have become, the youth Activate managed to engage appear to be a group of designer-clad teenage-Nazis, who advocated online for the gassing of ‘chavs’.

Within a day, the young Tory group was froced to apologise for vile messages posted in a Whatsapp group described as a ‘professional discussion board’ for the campaign, where members said things likeWe could use [‘chavs’] as substitutes for animals when testing”.

Another responded: “To see why they are so good at producing despite living rough,” before quickly adding: “Okay we gotta be careful otherwise this is turning into a Nazi chat.”

One lamented that ‘chav culture’ had destroyed the reputation of Burberry, one of their favourite fashion brands.

The Tories should reflect on the fact they appear to have alienated everyone under-25 except those who are proudly elitist and actively delight in being horrible.

While Momentum is about positive change, all Activate reflects is a politics of unkindness. No one is going to be inspired. Yet again, the Tories have made it clear they have nothing to offer young people. 

Charlotte England is a freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter.

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