Georgia L Gilholy is a journalist.
A new study released by the Policy Institute at King’s College London has found that in the UK, both Generation Z and Millennials are significantly more likely to believe in hell than their elders, despite being less religious generally.
Theological contradictions aside, however, is this really so surprising?
Declining living standards, family breakdown, and vast social isolation accelerated by Covid policies have made the up-and-coming generations more emotionally and financially fragile. Neither of our main political parties is providing an inspiring alternative vision.
It is no wonder my peers have eternal damnation on their minds.
The Conservative Party are not wholly to blame for my age group’s woes, but their thirteen-plus years in governments mean they’ve had ample part to play. And aside from their pondering on divine justice, these generations is also more likely to share a disdain for our ruling party.
This week’s fresh report from the centre-right think tank Onward made grim reading for CCHQ, suggesting that a measly 21 per cent of 25 to 40-year-olds would consider voting for Tory candidates if a general election were held tomorrow. Can anyone blame them?
Sebastian Payne is obviously correct that there is an opportunity to persuade them, especially on economic issues. Almost everyone wants lower taxes on their wages, however, they might define themselves politically.
Fulfilling their pledge to build houses – whatever the short-term NIMBY backlash – and proposing a robust economic model could help to improve the Party’s image with younger voters, and give people a reason to trust them again.
Whether this will happen or not is another question entirely. As it stands the party’s failures on wages, industry, housing, immigration and freedom of thought paint a bleak vision of the future.
It was disappointing to see ministers sounding off about policy and slamming “wokeism” at the recent National Conservatism conference, despite their being in government and having a poor record on many of these issues which they could be doing something to improve.
While conservatism as a tradition offers endless ideas and opportunities, the Conservative Party itself seems to have little interest in anything but power, which includes kowtowing to the Blue Wall gerontocracy, developers, and billionaire donors. One Twitter wag surely spoke for many when he said:
“Nothing symbolises the Tory economic model like Battersea Power Station. The transition from an industrial powerhouse to a shopping centre owned by foreign investors where consumption is fuelled by credit.”
The Tories have plucked phrases like “levelling up” and “northern powerhouse” from thin air to appeal to voters, but have failed to deliver on any cohesive industrial strategy; our economy is beholden to overseas investors, and we are failing to bolster our own wealth.
Full-time working households now earn less than those receiving pensions – and the gap will only grow. As the triple lock does its work, real wages will still be lower in 2026 than they were in 2008.
Older generations who have already acquired their assets are often isolated from just how insane the housing market has become. In the 1970s the average house cost three times the average salary; it is now ten times it. Even for those lucky youngest able to scramble together enough for a deposit, Liz Truss’ calamitous mini-budget and a looming recession could make mortgage payments a struggle.
The Tories have also failed to enact their pledge to abolish the leasehold system, meaning that millions who do manage to get on the housing ladder become trapped in properties that become eye-watering resource sinks they may struggle to sell on.
A particularly frustrating episode from NatCon involved Michael Gove, the Housing Secretary, complaining that “not enough houses are being built” – despite his own department’s failure to meet the promise of 300,000 new homes a year.
For the Westminster bubble, it seems to be more about managing people’s reactions to contentious issues, rather than responding to them with useful policies. Such methods can certainly work in the short term, but a political project the next generation can put their hopes in it does not make.
The equivalent of a city the size of Birmingham arrived in the UK last year, and services are not equipped to respond. Whilst many younger voters are more supportive of laxer immigration rules than their elders, the fact remains that mass immigration pushes down wages and erodes social trust.
It is also bad for productivity, with this large flow of unskilled labour incentivising businesses to neglect innovation. Unsurprisingly, the UK one of the least automated economies in Europe, lagging behind post-communist Slovenia, Slovakia, and Hungary.
On both immigration and law and order, issues the Tories usually poll much better on, Labour are ahead of the Government. There is a strong case to be made that theft and rape have effectively been decriminalised due to plummeting arrest and conviction rates.
How can we plan for the future if we don’t feel safe in the now?
Onward’s report, Missing Millennials, also suggests younger voters are less interested in so-called culture war issues that ministers seems to relish occasionally intervening in. But even on a culture war crisis of actual urgency, freedom of expression, the Tories have no coherence.
This week it was announced that Sunak would appoint a new free speech adviser with the power to investigate and fine universities which “censor academics for their views”.
Meanwhile, under this Government’s flagship Public Order Act, it is illegal to partake in any form of peaceful demonstration within 150 metres of an abortion facility, and even silent prayer or holding a banner may carry a two-year custodial sentence. Nor has the Government made any real strides to push back against New Labour’s overzealous hate speech laws.
Ministers’ incessant complaints about “the blob” as a barrier to their plans come across, after having years to enact reforms that could have made governance more impartial and effective, as lazy and petulant.
Young people are being blocked out of their dreams of homes and families, and are cut loose from any stake in society. This is not just a dangerous prospect for the Conservative Party’s electoral prospects, but for the welfare of the nation as a whole.
But why would anyone support something or someone who is failing to address your core needs and vision for the future?
So what can the Tories do about this before 2024? Actually delivering on their manifesto pledges would certainly be a start.