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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 March, 2004, 16:20 GMT
Young Tories make their case
By Ben Davies
BBC News Online, in Harrogate

The Conservatives devoted part of the first day of their spring conference in Harrogate to looking at ways of attracting young people into the party.

Young Conservatives at 2001 conference
The Tories have long tried to woo young voters
The discussion - entitled 'Young and hopeful' - began with senior Tory spokesman Tim Yeo addressing assembled representatives.

Watched by what appeared to be a largely older gathering of people, he said he hoped the title described those on the platform as much as the audience.

Afterwards BBC News Online talked to some of the younger Tories at the conference.

Karl Poulsen, 33, regional chairman for the north-east of England.

"At last year's conference in Blackpool I was amazed how many young people there were.

"It's probably a combination of the early start we have had this morning - lots of people still recovering from the night before.

"I think it's a question of having policies that appeal to the issues that young people care about.

"Take the classic one of tuition fees for example - we've got a fantastic policy in regards to tuition fees.

"That's meant we've had our largest recruitment at freshers fares for our Conservative Future organisation."

Hayley Anderson, 19, of South Shields.

"I've been a member of the party since I was about 13. I've grown up with it really, my mum's always been quite heavily involved and we always helped out with events.

"I went to university at the start of this year and I've just joined last week down in Leeds and if you've grown with something it is quite hard to get away from it and I've never been heavily political but I've enjoyed being involved.

"A couple of years ago it was something that was quite unfashionable and had a quite dull label but I get the feeling now that things are starting now to pick up."

Mark Taylor, 35, a parliamentary assistant.

"I think that we are engaging with young people. One of the key areas we are focusing on is student top-up fees - we don't think that's a good idea, we'll scrap them.

"There's other areas that we are addressing: crime is a big concern for everybody. It's the same for young people as everybody else I think. Same story.

"We do have a good time while we are here as well - other than falling asleep in a fringe meeting, there's some blooming good discos that we can go to and stuff like that.

"The media have got to get out there and show the young people who are here instead of just showing the perms."

Clare Hilley, 20, chair of her university's conservative association in Lancaster.

"To become a good politician you need 30 years experience. The younger ones are behind the scenes. I think it's brilliant that one seventh of us are under 30 - and it's not like 29 and 30 it really is like it's 18 to 25 which is an excellent bonus.

"The cannabis reclassification the Labour Party has done is ridiculous so therefore because the Conservatives take a tough line on drugs and crime it appeals to us."

She said she thought forthcoming exams had reduced the numbers of younger people able to attend.

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