The founder of an influential Conservative think tank is to quit, accusing the government of betraying his generation as he faces stagnant wages and little help to punish housing and childcare costs .
Ryan Shorthouse, 37, will quit the Cameronite think tank he founded, Bright Blue, next year and told the Guardian he was deeply disappointed with the progress made over the past 12 years under the Tories – claiming that Rishi Sunak had failed to reinvigorate the conservative vision or bring in new talent.
“The Conservative government has failed my generation – Millennials – who came of age and entered the workforce under 12 years of Tory rule, with housing and childcare costs punished – combined with stagnant wages – preventing the basic elements of what conservatives believe make the good life,” Shorthouse said.
“There was excitement in the 2000s from millennials, entering the workforce, about the Cameron Conservatives representing a goal-oriented, socially-minded company that was totally lost.”
He said the party has left millennials “stuck in limbo – they want to do the things that conservatives say will get them to the good life, like raising a family or having a home.”
But he said it was now clear the party had no inspiration, will or vision to address these issues. “They’ve had 12 years to fix these things and the cost of renting and owning a home is higher than ever. The costs of starting a family, especially for women’s wages, but also the cost of childcare, are very penalizing,” he added.
Shorthouse said the party had become “very mired in Brexit” and the internal war – adding that he expected voters to punish the party for the economic damage not only of the mini-budget under Liz Truss, but repercussions of leaving the European Union.
“The reason we are going into austerity is a lot of it because of global factors, but part of it has to do with the policies of the Conservative Party, the mini budget in particular, but also Brexit has had a massive impact. A lot of people just won’t forgive the Tories for having another round of austerity, which is going to be quite painful,” he said.
Shorthouse, the father of two young children, said his key moment of anger came at the mini-budget, which he said had “reversed the decades-long gains of two phases of conservative modernization in a month – with the party now again ‘the party of the rich’.
He said the mini-budget “was very decisive… There was kind of a shameless signaling, almost a vice signaling about it, which really blew my mind.”
But he said Sunak failed to grasp the nettle after Truss left and filled the cabinet with veteran ministers, many of whom had been responsible for past mistakes.
“Rishi Sunak is a thoughtful and decent person, but he is politically myopic and seems like a bad judge of character,” Shorthouse said. “He missed an opportunity to promote experienced and talented young ministers to the cabinet to refresh the government, which could have been good for him and his party politically as well as better policy-making.”
He added: “Instead, he just moved the deckchairs, surrounding himself with the same people who have been leading for a long time now; the Conservative government is tired and desperate to be led by new talent and ideas.
Shorthouse, who did not say whether he would continue to be a member of the party, said he once had ambitions to be an MP, but the current political climate and culture was a major deterrent for young professionals ambitious, who saw change coming. more effectively through business and enterprise.
“Politics has a deeply serious talent problem,” he said. “The Conservatives made it worse: Partygate, ongoing conspiracies and bad behavior made politics an even more toxic profession.”
He said Bright Blue had a good track record of adopting government policy – it was the first Conservative think tank to call for net zero to be implemented across government. But he said the pace of change had been chilling and frustrating.
“Bright Blue came up with this idea of shared parental leave for working grandparents, a good idea, and particularly at a time when people in their 50s and 60s are leaving the workforce in record numbers. The government said it would implement it in 2015. And it still hasn’t been implemented.
Shorthouse said he now believes the Tories are likely to be out of government for at least two terms – and that a new era of austerity “will not play to Tory strengths, as some wish and expect. predict; it will be painful, they will be resented and it will remain, just as the financial crisis of 2008 is still blamed on the Labor Party”.
He said he believed there was a fundamental mistake on the part of the Sunak administration that they could “just focus on delivering the 2019 manifesto”, and added: “The ‘BBC’ – Brexit, Boris and Corbyn – who gave them that majority is now gone.”
Shorthouse said he now intends to enter the private sector after leaving Bright Blue. “People like me are now at the age where we should decide whether or not to enter politics,” he said.
“So many people have now decided not to… Business is much more meritocratic than politics. The quality of governance and policy-making will continue to decline if the political class does not seriously think about improving the attractiveness and reputation of politics to attract a pool of young talent.