A senior London Conservative has said his party “absolutely must address” a trend away from voters embracing socially conservative values as they get older and begin the process in the capital with a “positive, forward-looking 2024 mayoral campaign”.
Nick Rogers, who represents the South West Assembly constituency, was responding on Twitter to research by the Financial Times showing that “millennials” – generally defined as people born between 1981 and 1996 – in the UK and the US are not conforming to previous patterns whereby voting habits tend to move towards right-wing parties with greater age.
John Burn-Murdoch, who produced the FT work, concluded that millennials “are not playing ball” in the way prior generations have, with the UK cohort showing “no sign of following the old trend” and not necessarily likely to revert even if the key issue of difficulty with becoming a homeowner – a particularly big problem in London – was successfully addressed.
Brexit and other “culture war” themes might not help conservative parties in the longer run, Burn-Murdoch wrote on Twitter, noting also that millennials on both sides of the Atlantic are “much more in favour of redistribution from rich to poor” than previous generations were at the same age.
Though welcoming the “fascinating and timely data” which he said “confirms what I’ve been saying for ages”, Rogers did not elaborate on what he thinks the Tories’ next campaign for the mayoralty in London – which he termed “a millennial city” – should be like. However, his remarks prompted a lively comment thread, in which Tory stances in London against new housebuilding and policies to reduce private motoring and associated pollution were among those challenged.
The Conservatives have been in long-term decline in the capital for over ten years despite Boris Johnson winning two mayoral elections (in 2008 and 2012) and the party being in power nationally since 2010. Even while winning a big national majority in December 2019 the Tories failed to make an overall gain at Labour’s expense in London. And in last year’s London local elections, despite taking power from Labour in two boroughs, they lost well over 100 council seats and saw three flagship boroughs – Westminster, Wandsworth and Barnet – turn red.
London’s population is more aligned with centre and left-wing values than much of the rest of England due to it being younger than the national average – albeit last year’s Census findings showed the number of older Londoners to have increased – opposed to Brexit and having more liberal attitudes towards immigration than Tory areas of the country.
The last two Conservatives mayoral bids, both of them unsuccessful, have been strongly criticised, with Zac Goldsmith’s 2016 bid attacked even by some fellow Tories for being negative and divisive, and Shaun Bailey’s 2021 challenge marred by false claims that the incumbent, Sadiq Khan, would raise a so-called “outer London tax” on motorists if re-elected and the use of campaign leaflets and websites seemingly designed to deceive voters by giving the impression that they were from City Hall or Transport for London.
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