‘The best policy is keeping tuition fees’: an interview with the President of UCL Tory Soc
Apparently free university education ‘devalues’ your degree
With a General Election just around the corner, political societies on campus are ramping up to maximum activity levels. Posters have been made, students deployed to local constituencies, but who is behind it all?
One of the key campaigners is final year Classics student Rai Gill, outgoing President of UCLU Conservative Society, which has a membership of approximately 80 students.
Is Rai a Tory with a heart of gold? He talked to us about his party’s policies and performance, so it’s up to you to decide.
What led you to the Conservative Party?
I first joined the party when I was 16 or 17. I just remember looking at all of the parties; I started to think for myself and I realised that Labour’s policies were just fanciful, they had no substance. The idea that there was a continuous flow of money, that there can be continuous expenditure, the idea that everybody is entitled to everything – I thought that was unfair actually, and not equal. It’s held up as the baton of equality, but when not everyone is doing the same amount, that is not equality; that is forcing everyone to be the same when they are not.
What do you like most about the recent Conservative Party manifesto?
The best policy for me personally would be the commitment to keeping tuition fees at university. As somebody who’s been to university, I know how difficult it is; allowing everyone to go to university for free devalues the amount of work that people do there, and the degree that one gets at the end. I think its very important that university education is kept as a very valuable resource, as it should be.
Do you disagree with any parts of the manifesto and what would you change?
I would definitely have a policy to lower taxes because I think that is a very conservative ideal, a very conservative policy to have.
It surprises me that Theresa May hasn’t gone further in her commitment towards small state governing and the idea that it is an individual’s money. Individuals have their own money; it is not government money and therefore I would never advocate an increase in taxes as Corbyn is doing and always value a government respecting an individual’s rights.
How do you predict the outcome of the election?
I strongly believe that the Conservatives will garner an enormous majority.
I don’t think that Britain has ever been a socialist or very much left wing country. We have always been a centre-ground nation that believes in the rights of the individual and the respect of privacy. Whilst Jeremy Corbyn is appealing to a lot of younger voters who perhaps have dreams of a perfect society, in reality that’s not the case and so people will eventually vote for the safest and most secure option, as Theresa May says.
A common criticism of your views is that it is optimistic to say that fear of debt shouldn’t stop young people from applying to university. How would you combat this claim?
Grants are often offered by universities to the poorest, but also, firstly, one only pays back their tuition loan when earning above a certain amount. So the idea of going to university is that afterwards one is able to get a job which will earn enough to pay back any loan and then it becomes worth the degree.
I would say that no-one should be discouraged from studying; they should look at it as a way to go to university, earn a lot of money and eventually pay back to society.
One of the most controversial policies in the last few weeks has been the ‘dementia tax’ – what are your thoughts on that?
I think that the theory behind it is quite sound; the government cannot continue paying vast sums of money and it needs to be subsidised to some extent. The problem is that often policies sound good, or bad in theory but in practice they do the exact opposite – we cannot condone the so-called ‘dementia tax’ until we have a trial on it.
I don’t believe Theresa May, or any Conservative government would allow there to be an enormous detriment to our senior citizens – I don’t think that would ever happen. It’s a matter of working out the best way of paying for our welfare state.
What has the UCLU Conservative Society been doing to encourage young people to get involved with the political process?
Firstly, our events are a major influence; we encourage good speakers to come along and we provide refreshments and a chance to speak and debate and to interact with speakers. That often brings in more young people who want to get involved in politics; they are given an opportunity to speak and to experience how a political life might be. We also offer day trips to campaign in certain areas: Holborn and St Pancras, our local constituency and also neighbouring constituencies like Hampstead and Kilburn.
This year, we’ve held campaigning days in the run up to election as a group; as students together, not alone. It’s an experience we have all gone through together, and everyone is learning from it.
Why should young people be voting Conservative?
The Conservatives offer the best opportunity for young people to go into the world and get a good job and live the life that they want to live; not being forced to do things by the government but ensuring that they have the freedom to pursue any path that they wish. They can go to university as long as they work hard and enjoy their subject, and everyone gets this opportunity. They can graduate with a degree and go into a profession they are suited for. Nobody is restricted, not by background, finance or anything like that.
That’s what the Conservative Party is about.