Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A New Tory Tactic?

The Liberal Democrats have, in the past, been masters at pandering to the student vote. Anyone currently or recently at university in Britain will be familiar with the industrial quantities of paper sent to them extolling the virtues of their stand on tuition fees and the Iraq war. Indeed, were one to rely solely on the literature sent by the Liberal Democrats, a student in Britain could be forgiven for thinking that the third party in the UK had policy on only two areas, and that they'd occasionally pipe up on ID cards to boot.

Many Tory bloggers have already pointed out that the new Lib Dem tax plans will hit the poor and families with young children pretty hard. It's quite ridiculous to assume that families can easily switch to public transport. If they want to hit at gas-guzzling SUVs, fine - but these plans hit drivers of Mondeos to the equivalent of around £800 a year. But I think that the new plans may well open up another opportunity for the Tories to position themselves well among young voters.

A car is one of the most eagerly-awaited benefits of a teenager reaching adulthood. The ability to drive allows children much greater freedom from their parents; the ability to go out more freely, and in a time when many are complaining about a 'loss of childhood', also serves as a real and tangible rite of passage.

Such a rite of passage comes at a price, however. A car does not come cheap to a 17-year-old, nor does the insurance for a newly-qualified driver. The Lib Dems seem to want to stack a hefty tax bill on top. Now, I haven't studied the specifics of the plans in great detail, but it seems to me that this is going to adversely affect young people in that they will be presented with a new tax bill upon buying their first car. The mobility of driving is essential in many parts of the country - in the North East, for example, if you don't have a car, your ability to fulfil many jobs is diminished. Public transport simply isn't good enough (that, of course, is another problem of the 'green tax' plans - they won't go to infrastructural investment, but rather to funding tax cuts elsewhere).

This to me seems a great marketing opportunity - "the Lib Dems pricing you out of a car" or some other appeal to the young. After all, the Liberal Democrats have been negatively targeting youngsters for a long time, appealing to their self-interest. Why shouldn't the marketing people at CCO try the same trick in reverse? If the electoral fortunes of the Tories are to be turned around, then they need to attract the young votes. This seems like a pretty good tactic to use to me!