The Conservatives have a youth problem. The average age of a Tory party member is 57, Labour leads by 35 points among 18 – 24-year-old voters and – to add the cherry on the cake – those young conservatives who do wish to get involved have no obvious party youth organisation to join. So, surely it must have been a case of warm prosecco at the ready in CCHQ when the winner of this year’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here was announced.
The newly crowned queen of the ITV reality show – which boasts viewing figures over 12m – is not only a Tory but a young one at 23-years-old. Georgia ‘Toff’ Toffolo first made her name on Made in Chelsea, the E4 reality show, before charming the nation in the jungle. On Coffee House, The Spectator‘s resident ‘young person’ Nick Hilton describes her as Boris in a bikini (a compliment she describes in turn as ‘the most wonderful thing I’ve ever heard’) and heralds her as proof that millennials are, deep down, conservative.
Only there’s a problem, it appears that the brains at CCHQ think they have this one covered without her help. In an interview with the Sunday Times, Toff says she is ready and willing – along with her 1.5m Instagram followers – to help her party appeal to the young if only they’d accept her help:
‘I’ve got 1.5m followers on Instagram. Yes, I might have blonde hair, go to the pub a lot and be on a reality show, but this is the way the world is going. Perhaps it’s time for them to embrace that.
I’m put in this box where I apparently shouldn’t be talking about politics. Why not? Let’s try and make it cool. Voter apathy, particularly among young people, stems from politics being completely unrelatable.’
In a hat tip to Momentum, Toffolo credits the grassroots Labour movement for stopping politics from being ‘snobby and archaic’; ‘I think Labour has done very well in not being like that recently’.
So, why aren’t CCHQ hugging their celebrity supporter close? It may be that on paper, a sloaney reality star with the nickname ‘Toff’ isn’t the image they are going for. But it’s not as though the current Conservative intake have the nation very excited – at least not enough, as the snap election showed, to get people to go out and vote in their masses.
While it’s unlikely that Toff is the answer to the Conservatives’ youth problem (that probably comes with building more homes), it’s striking that CCHQ are yet to consider the opportunity she could present them. Although Women2Win’s Anne Jenkins has since tweeted that she ought to get in touch if she wants to be an MP, it’s clear that Toff sees the Conservatives as failing to embrace her.
As Fraser and I discuss on Coffee House Shots, a group like Momentum – which prides itself on its social media presence – would make certain that a party supporter wth 1.5million followers was brought in in some way. That doesn’t have to mean an official role but instead a way of utilising her online presence. The decision to eschew Toff’s support looks particularly foolhardy when you remember that the Conservatives’ official account on Instagram has just 14,000 followers – hardly the stuff of which ‘youthquakes’ are made from. It doesn’t take a genius to work out something’s going wrong. Ahead of the next election, the Conservatives will need all the help they can get – even if it is made in Chelsea.