This year’s Conservative Party Conference was an incredible experience for me as a young adult. There was always an exciting atmosphere wherever you went; whether it be attending a fringe event, watching one of the ministerial speeches, queuing for an event, or just sampling walking around the exhibition zone.
For most of the first two days I based myself in the Youth Zone so I could represent UK Youth at all the various fringe events regarding young people’s issues. One thing that struck me throughout these events was that most of what affects young people is actually the same as the rest of the population: it just has to be articulated in a different way.
It was a great pleasure to shadow the CEO of UK Youth, Anna Smee. At the events she gave some excellent answers about the skills young people need in our increasingly digitised global economy. Conservative MP Chloe Smith, who is an outstanding advocate of youth affairs in Parliament, also did an excellent job of chairing the many panel discussions.
Moreover, it was great to see the Conservative Party Chairman, Lord Feldman and the Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson MP speaking about the Party’s desire to appeal more to young voters. The ‘Generation Change’ reception, where organisations helping young people from cradle to adulthood were present, was also testament to this.
My main areas of political interest are: Education, Local Communities, the Environment and Local Businesses. I was therefore very pleased to hear the Chancellor, George Osborne MP, announce the ‘Devolution Revolution’. I am a big believer in decision making being a local as possible so these four issues will hopefully particularly benefit from this new initiative.
I loved watching all the speeches on the Tuesday: from Michael Gove to Theresa May, then Zac Goldsmith to Boris Johnson, Iain Dunch Smith and then Nicky Morgan to Jeremy Hunt. Boris’ speech topped them all though. All the spectators just couldn’t stop laughing. He clearly has a lexicon of his own with the amount of new words he pulled out of the hat. It was interesting to see the clear battle lines being drawn for the future leadership contest to succeed David Cameron.
Whilst the protestors outside the security zone were entitled to freedom of speech, their actions went a step too far and did make the daily experience of entering the conference very uncomfortable. All the fantastic conversations and networking I did with other young people and stopping ministers for chats more than made up for this though. During the 2-minute conversations I had with the Home Secretary and Karren Brady, I was pleasantly surprised at how approachable and nice they both were a people. I was also shocked to see Guardian journalist Owen Jones going around the conference interviewing young people including myself about the events. I did manage to find the secret exit for ministers after they had finished their speeches and used this as a chance to stop many of them for a quick selfie and chat.
The conference headline was ‘Security, Stability, Opportunity’ and the speeches and fringe events definitely fitted into the new Conservative centre ground brand. This will, after all, be crucial if the Party wishes to appeal to more young people. The other factor will be remembering that we, as young people, are the future and we therefore need to be part of their mission to change the country for the common good. The Conservative Party is embracing the rise of digital democracy and this will help them continue to get their message across to young voters like me.
By Joe Porter, UK Youth Voice – West Midlands Representative