KCL Conservative Society: “We don’t want to underestimate the opposition as we did last time”

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Roar interviews Luke Stewart, who is a History and War Studies student and the General Secretary of the Conservative Society. He assists the president in making decisions, contacts speakers, and posts on social media.

R: Are you, as a society, happy with the party’s position on Brexit?

L: As a society, as you can imagine, it’s kind of similar to how a political party would be, in that there’s different wings and opinions from the different members. From what I have gathered, the society is generally agreeable on the position of Brexit, that we need to get Brexit done and move on to other issues. There have been a few people who I have come across who have said that they are not too happy with the position. They might have been remainers in the referendum and think we should be remaining flat out, but there’s not too much actual protesting. They’re either in agreement with the policy or are not particularly happy with it but will go along with it.

R: Do you support the Tory rebels?

L: I’m actually one of the people who is most against the Conservative rebels. My position is shared among a few speakers that we’ve had previously, like Lord Michael Howard and Spectator editor Fraser Nelson. For those readers who won’t know what the Tory rebels did, they supported the Standing Order 24 amendment which allowed the opposition in Parliament to effectively take control of the government agenda for a day. The Conservative speakers we’ve had have said that that’s effectively the one thing that you can do which is guaranteed to get you to lose the party. I’ve ran into some people who have said that they don’t think that they should have been expelled; there’s the line about moderate conservatives being kicked out of the party, but myself, others, and these speakers would say that to allow the opposition to take control of the government agenda isn’t necessarily a very moderate position. 

R: Do you think it’s fair to characterise this election as a single issue election?

L: I think so. At least to a large extent, because many will argue that the reason why this election was called the first place was because Boris, without a majority in Parliament, was unable to get a Brexit deal through. So then it could be argued that the only way to break the deadlock and to get a new majority was to call a general election. There will be a few who would argue that an election can never be a ‘single issue’ election because everything’s on the table when it comes to asking for votes from the electorate. And I think you’d also get arguments from some who say that some of the parties are trying to stay away from the Brexit issue because their position might not be what the electorate will like, or it might not be very concise or specific. However, I personally would say that I think because of why it was called in the first place that it can be argued to be a one-issue election.

R: The Extinction Rebellion has been almost permanently in the news. Will this be the first election in which the climate issue substantially affects how people vote?

L: Right now, you can argue that it could be an election where climate change is put more on the agenda. However, I think you’d have to see the results of the election in order to see if that assumption holds true, particularly, obviously, the Green Party vote, to see if people switch to them. From what I’ve been seeing, up until a few days ago I don’t think that any of the main parties have been talking a lot about environment policy or about climate change. Climate change policy is once again in the background. It doesn’t really have its own standalone position in this election, but keep an eye out for how well the Greens do in the election. It might be that people have been switching to them.

R: Outside of Brexit, what are you proud to be able to say your party stands for in this coming election?

L: A couple of policies that I am happy to see the party doing are, first of all, 20,000 police officers — I believe that the emergency services should never have been cut by the cuts that were made since 2010 — I’m glad to see that they’ll be getting police officers back on the streets. I also am happy to see the Conservatives committing to an Australian based point system for EU nationals. I think that that’s an issue that had a lot of prominence in the referendum and even before that, so I think that the policy will ring very well with members of the public. For me in the Conservative Party, I am very, very strong on the idea of meritocracy, the idea that you work hard in order to be able to reap the rewards that life can allow you, I’m very much a supporter of that and the idea of a safety net to support those people who want to succeed in life. Another ideological point for me is freedom of the individual, the idea of small government and mainly believing that individuals know best how to run their own lives, not thinking instead that the state knows how best to spend my money or knows best what broadband provider I should be using. 

R: What is the mood of the Conservative Society right now?

L: From events I’ve been attending the mood seems generally good, but they don’t want to get in over their heads as you could argue we did in 2017, because the polls put us ahead of the other parties by quite a large margin, but of course we remember what happened last time, Labour managed to get more seats than Theresa May. We’re looking forward to seeing what happens over the next few weeks, but we don’t want to underestimate the opposition as we did last time.

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