The Government reshuffle designed to reinvigorate the Prime Minister’s tenure might seem quite inconsequential tinkering to many. There were, however, clear attempts to modernise Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) to ensure the party can recover a majority at the next election. Key to achieving this will be winning over many of the young people who voted for Corbyn’s Labour in 2017.
Theresa May appointed Ben Bradley, the MP for Mansfield, as Vice Chair for Youth. Bradley, who is 29, joined the Commons only this past year after the snap election. He appeared at the York Tories Winter Ball this past week for his first engagement in post. Yet after only a week in his position, Bradley became engulfed in a media spat concerning comments the young MP made about benefits claimants in a 2012 blog post.
The incident echoes even more inflammatory historic comments made by the new Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam, Jared O’Mara. The MP was suspended by his party but resumed his duties this past week. A government pick for the new higher education quango, Toby Young, was also forced to resign after historic tweets led to backlash.
Bradley remains in his job but many in CCHQ will no doubt be concerned about this difficult start. Moreover, though, this trend of increasing exposés of young MPs should worry budding young people who covet a position in public life. As more millennials, most of whom will have used social media for much of their lives, enter politics, such discoveries are likely to become ever more prevalent.
Everybody says silly things when they are younger. Of course outright bigotry and incitement is always wrong, but with controversial comments now recorded online forever, the danger for younger people entering public life is increasingly perilous. The question going forward is how the public will respond to this trend. The two choices seem to be either to elect increasingly robotic, vacuous politicians or to accept their flaws and acclimatise to a new reality.