Green Brexit can re-engage young voters with the Conservative Party

by Elizabeth Anderson

It takes a lot for a political speech to really inspire and impress me these days – I’ve heard or read a lot of speeches.  Michael Gove’s speech on a Green Brexit was one of those speeches that impressed me.

I have always loved the countryside, and as a consequence of this, which grew from a love of nature to a wider understanding of the need to preserve the environment – both immediately around us and globally – sprang my wider interest.  For me, Conservativism and conservation could go hand in hand, empowering people to take responsibility.

Some years ago though, I had to make a choice – my interest in climate action campaigning, or Conservatism.  With one too many complaints and jibes at me from my climate action friends about my political beliefs, I moved away from that side, and focussed on supporting the Party, but I still found that my greener views were often incompatible with my Party friends.  Somehow, ‘green issues’ became the preserve of the left – even though in 1989 Margaret Thatcher was addressing the UN General Assembly on the important of tackling climate change.  To be an environmentalist was somehow the wrong attitude – my piece for Conservative Home on fracking certainly saw my friends shaken by my out-of-place views.

So for me, to see Michael Gove, already one of my top political heroes – actually, my top political hero – nailing his colours to the mast so clearly and robustly, really is an inspiration.  Because there’s no way anyone can doubt his credentials as a committed Conservative.  And it tells everyone that actually environmental issues really do matter across the political spectrum.  Preserving our countryside, reducing air and water pollution, banning dangerous pesticides and chemicals, taking climate action – all of these things he highlights as important.  And he articulates why – not simply because of his emotional attachment and a moral feeling that the planet should be passed on to future generations in a better state than we found it, but on scientific and economic grounds too of ensuring a sustainable food source, avoiding catastrophic floods, and avoiding conflict based on scarcity of resources.

What really is important is that such a key area of concern for young people can be addressed by the Conservative Party.  For too long a focal point only of the opposition, delivering on green issues can have a wider impact on the perception of the party.  For young people, socially aware policies are massively important, and delivering on a commitment to a Green Brexit will attract a wider group of people who may previously have been put off by pejorative comments on such issues.  It is this sort of policy which will help re-engage young voters with Conservativism, and potentially gain new members for the Party.

And more than that, his speech gives real and genuine hope that he is the man to ensure that green matters are highlighted in Brexit.  As anyone who has an interest in environmental matters knows, one lingering concern – as a highly committed and unshakeable Leave voter – is that so much environmental (and animal welfare) legislation is tied up in European directives.  But Mr Gove highlights that the UK is more than capable of making our own laws, striving for stronger standards, and protecting our own countryside and coastlines.  Like every other aspect of Brexit, with the democratic mandate to take action, the government can deliver in this once in a lifetime chance to forge a new future.

If you haven’t read the speech, I urge you to take a look – you’ll find the transcript at

Elizabeth Anderson is Head of Membership for Parliament Street

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