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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4 Responses to “Activate proves the Tories have absolutely nothing to offer young people”

  1. Alasdair Macdonald

    During the Scottish referendum campaign in 2014 the unionist side created groups like “NoBorders” to propagandise for a NO vote. Most of these groups were little more than PR jobs established by wealthy donors and run by a few, i e less than 10, people. They bought prime advertising sites and put up posters and, of course, they were guaranteed time on the media to spout their propaganda, unchallenged, and to have their press releases printed verbatim in most of the mainstream media, particularly, the vain but mendaciously self-proclaimed lefty “progressive” ones like the Guardian, and New Statesman, and on websites, including this one.

    So, while ‘Activate’ can, as you have reported, become a right wing hate blog, it will be sanitised, continued to be run by a small unit, have no members, but will be assured plenty of uncritical coverage. The same people who were ferried around during the GE to be filmed as the adoring crowds adulation Mrs Strong-and-stable, will appear on clips on the main news bulletins. At the same time the ‘thuggishness’ of Momentum will be manufactured. This will parallel what the union side did about the so-called ‘cybernats’ in the Scottish referendum.

    LFF was up to its neck in such anti independence propaganda, so, in that light, your criticism of Activate looks like hypocrisy. Activate should of course be ridiculed for the vacuous construct that it is but LFF should look at its own history.

    I am sure we will be reading on this site articles of how successful Kezia Dugdale’s was in restoring Labour in Scotland.


  2. Cole

    Anti-independence propaganda? Is this some new spin from Lying Leave?

  3. David Lindsay

    Six months ago, people who enjoy handsome remuneration and coverage as serious opinion-formers were telling us that the Conservative Party was going to be in Government for the next 40 years. What, so that I would have entered my dotage with this lot in the Cabinet? Thank goodness that the electorate had other ideas, and still has. Anyway, they have missed the main point. The very un-slick and un-techy Jeremy Corbyn came before Momentum. It did not create him as a political phenomenon. He, as a political phenomenon, created it.

  4. Ross Armour

    Careful with the use of the term ‘Labour’s Momentum’ – the Labour Party itself specifically did not create Momentum. Some Momentum members are not even Labour Party members as yet. The term ‘Corbyn’s Momentum’ may be more appropriate as it was born out of Jeremy’s election as leader.

    No doubt Activate will turn out to be a complete farce. Labour and Momentum are both right to promote of how they appeal to young people far more and rightly so

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