Ben Bradley MP and Vice Chair of the Conservative Party for Youth
Politics is changing. Both here in the UK and around the world events show that the public are looking for something different. Trump, Brexit, En Marche… and countless other examples suggest that people are increasingly looking for something new, and for something that speaks to their values in a different way.
I got in to politics to effect change too. It was never my intention to become an MP, in fact I wasn’t remotely interested in politics at all until I was about 21. Having dropped out of university I spent a year figuring out what on earth to do and went back to study something that was sufficiently vague that I could leave my options open for the future. I went to study Politics, and by the end of my three years I was hooked.
I’d had other jobs, as an Administrator, Recruitment Consultant, Landscape Gardener; in supermarkets and bars too. But the work experience and the volunteering I’d done at university had shown me that politics could be an intriguing and rewarding path. As a Conservative Party Campaign Manager, I worked towards the 2015 elections in Sherwood, where the 214 majority eventually became 4500-odd, and I went on to be elected myself to the local Council.
My Council election was a hyper-local example of that wish to effect change. I fell out with the Council about bins! It may seem petty, but it mattered to my community a great deal at the time. They didn’t collect them for a month over Christmas, and having just had a baby we had stacks of dirty nappies piling up in the street! I wasn’t having it. I was going to speak out and we launched a local campaign on bin collections. In the end I decided if I wanted it done properly I would have to do it myself. I stood for Council in a Labour-held seat, and I won.
Being the MP for Mansfield is about change too. It’s a place that voted 71% to leave the EU, and that has felt left behind by national politics. People were waiting for an opportunity to tip over the apple cart, and were willing to let them fall where they may. So many areas across similar communities did the same in the 2017 election and the result is that our national conversation has changed forever. I promised to speak up for Mansfield, to put the place on the map, and to make sure that it couldn’t be left behind any more.
What I’ve seen from my journey through politics, is the Conservative Party’s commitment to offering opportunity. The party that took a chance on me, is offering that chance to other young people too – more jobs, better education, a country where people can keep more of their money, and have the freedom to spend it how they please. It’s a party of liberty, of personal choice and personal responsibility.
Since being given the role of Vice Chair for Youth in the Party, I’ve been asked many times what the party offers for young people, and what the challenges are. Whilst Corbyn and the left will always offer more shiny free stuff (like tickets to Jezfest, or false promises about scrapping tuition fees) – they excel at offering short term wins at the expense of long term security – my party is about supporting young people for their future.
We’re prioritising housing: building more, helping first time buyers on to the ladder, scrapping tenants fees and raising the standards for renters. We’re offering a proper long term sustainable solution for our NHS, rebalancing the funding equation to give it the cash it needs to be able to adapt to growing pressures. We’re improving technical and vocational education, offering free childcare for working parents, and taking action to protect our environment. We’re the party offering a sustainable future for young people.
We have to be more open, and more engaging. Sometimes that means overcoming old stereotypes and showing the depth of young and talented people within our party. Sometimes it means being more proactive in our colleges, universities and workplaces to share our point of view, so that we can empower young people who believe in our message to feel that they can stand up and speak out about it. What is clear though, is that younger generations value their freedoms, their liberty, their access to markets and ability to connect with others around the world more than ever before. That’s a Conservative message, that socialism can’t deliver (and in fact doesn’t even want to!)
My family are a good example of what opportunity can bring. My mum grew up in a Council House in Derbyshire, became a Police Officer and is now CEO of a domestic violence charity. My grandparents were able to buy their Council House thanks to Conservative reforms, whilst my parents worked and made sacrifices to give me a better life than they had. I try to do the same for my own kids. That’s conservatism and social mobility in action: offering a chance to succeed through your own hard work and talent, and creating opportunities for anyone who wants to take them.
Over the next few years our politics will continue to change, and our country will too. That’s why it’s so important to think about the long term, to plan for a sustainable future for our young people and ensure that everyone has the freedom and ability to take those chances when they come.
That’s what the Conservative Party is all about, and that’s why I’m a Conservative MP.