UniversiTORY Challenge

Paul Dacre, Editor of the Daily Mail, famously said ‘If you don’t have a left-wing period when you go to university, you should be shot.’ Yet Edward Hardy, president of the LUU Conservatives, has no such qualms. Features interviewed him to discuss the EU, students and politics and how it feels to be the president of the right-wing Conservative Future in a predominantly left-wing northern university.

Our generation, generation Y, or the Millennials, are widely panned by the media as being entitled, addicted to technology, and most importantly, apathetic when it comes to politics.

Tory LogoSo on Monday morning, I sat down with Edward Hardy, leader of Leeds’ Conservative Youth, and asked him about the society. After joining several campaigns while at school and realising that this was something he wanted to do, Hardy came to university and ‘there wasn’t much of a conservative society there. It had fallen apart a bit and so I immediately ran for president and worked on rebuilding it.’

‘It’s been a fun two years sort of putting it together and we’re increasing members every week now. We’ve had an increasing attendance for talks and it’s great to see something we’ve spent two years working on become something at university.’

This was the reason I really wanted to interview him. Political opinions aside, in a time when our generation is being bashed for not caring, having a young person rebuild a political society within two years stands in direct defiance of that. However Hardy didn’t seem to think that he was unique.

‘I certainly think young people are extremely interested in politics. That may not translate into the forms that people are used to seeing, whether that’s standing for parliament or voting in elections, but I think there’s a lot of activism that students do and I don’t think they get given credit for it.’ He gave examples of the Free Education March and the more political elements of the vigil for the Ferguson Shooting last week. The latter is particularly poignant; marches have spread from London to Oxford to Manchester, not just for Mike Brown, but also for Mark Duggan and those killed in the UK by police officers. These protests are predominantly made up of the younger generation; it’s hard to argue that we obviously don’t care when people are chanting outside of Parliament.

Our generation is being bashed for not caring, having a young person rebuild a political society within two years stands in direct defiance of that.

Perhaps we’re just bruised and cynical after seeing our political system fail to meet our expectations. Even then, Hardy notes that ‘if people want to implement a policy or believe that the party needs to change the best way to do that is get involved, not stand on the sidelines. If I can do one thing at this university, it would be giving people a space where they can discuss policies.’ The election turnout in Leeds is just over 20%, as Hardy said, and that’s not enough. So while our generation does care, perhaps we need to show it in a more traditional manner. Hardy, hopefully, points out that ‘the youth of the conservative party are quite liberal’ and ‘pushing through policies like same-sex marriage, it’s something that shows that the party is changing and it’s reflecting the changing moods and the changing times that we’re in. If you take any political party they’ve evolved over time and I think that the conservatives are doing exactly that.’

I’ll admit, when I first arranged an interview with a tory, I did expect him to turn up in a suit. Instead, like me, he’s dressed in a hoodie (though his shirt is blue) and seems very earnest as he defends more liberal stances and excitedly invites us to join the talks, ‘you don’t have to be a die-hard conservative to attend, you can be someone who just agrees with the policies, a like-minded individual, and can be from any sort of race, gender or sexuality.’ You almost wonder what makes him a conservative at all. Them and the Liberal Democrats are in a coalition; maybe he got a bit lost.

‘if people want to implement a policy or believe that the party needs to change the best way to do that is get involved, not stand on the sidelines.’

‘Well I think Thatcher is a great Prime Minister.’

Ah. Nevermind.

‘No-one can deny that she did a lot for the country.’

I can think of a few people.

He laughed, a bit nervously, ‘I do realise that students aren’t always the biggest fans.’

Neither are the miners, the trade unionists, or the Scottish.

David_Cameron_officialThis had come from me asking him about the difficulties he’d had starting up a conservative society in the North. Though he did point out that there were some conservative MPs running around here, the line about students not liking Thatcher again shows more political awareness than we’re given credit for, though I’m not sure what to make of Edward Hardy’s opinions on the matter.

I did, however, ask him about Cameron’s increasing anti-EU stance.

‘I think that it’s a topic that needs to be discussed; immigration and our relationship with the EU, and I think they are linked, if you think EU migration is specifically linked to our membership of the European Union principle of free movement that exists between member states.’

However, keeping with the more liberal stance from before, Hardy says, ‘I think that having the opportunity for migrants to come here as well is extremely beneficial. This country has grown and evolved with the help of migrants coming here.’ Which is a relief to hear. I make sure that he’s not one of those who want to leave the EU entirely. His reply: ‘I want to see what the renegotiation would be. If we stayed the way we are I don’t think our membership will be sustainable in the long term. But I think David Cameron will make a very successful renegotiation.’

In case you were wondering, #CameronMustGo is still trending on twitter.

In the final statements, Hardy urges you to ‘come to the talks and see what it’s about.’ And though I don’t agree with his political views, I have to agree. Our generation obviously has things it cares about. What we need to do now is put it into action. We need to vote. We need to get the government to pay attention to what we want. Conservative Youth certainly is, and if you disagree with them, then maybe it’s time to get involved.

Rebecca White

Photographs: www.themirror.co.uk, www.en.wikipedia.com, @EdwardTHardy

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