IT IS easy to mock the embarrassing efforts of Activate, the “independent national grassroots campaigning organisation” aiming to win back the nation’s youth for the Conservatives.
Its initial tweet, a meme of a Star Wars character from 1983’s Return of the Jedi warning the young not to trust Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, has been howled down for feeling the need to include #meme and #retweet — an admission, surely, that its activists might not know why they were receiving pictures of fictional aliens from the Thatcher era or what to do with them.
What can the left make of this, other than what we already knew — that the world Young Conservatives inhabit is a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away?
Activate is clearly hoping to bill itself as the Tories’ Momentum — and the real Momentum can be proud of that.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Momentum has been slandered and derided from the moment of its birth.
It has been accused of masking an infiltration into the Labour Party by Trotskyists in numbers never seen before.
It’s been made the subject of televised yawnathons where so-called investigative journalists find out nothing whatsoever and present it as damning evidence of “entryism” and other dirty tricks.
It has repeatedly been denounced in the most aggressive terms by MPs of the party it is trying to support, who have referred to it as a “rabble” and a “mob,” defamed its enthusiastic young activists as bullies and used every excuse going to try to have the movement shut out of Labour politics.
But it stayed above the insults and organised, effectively, for Labour victories in seats the party’s headquarters had written off in June.
Few would now deny that tools like the My Nearest Marginal website and training in canvassing provided by Momentum played a major role in Labour’s mammoth effort to get out the vote, which brought Corbyn’s party its biggest vote increase since 1945.
The Tories want some of that action, and are clearly worried by their abysmal polling ratings among young people.
Founding their own Momentum shows at least some Tories recognise that the soundbite and spin-based politics of the Blair years, where a campaign consisted of carefully calibrated messages designed to win over an increasingly imaginary “Middle England,” is over.
Corbyn has brought back mass political engagement and campaigns now need to be fought on the ground and in the community rather than at Westminster and on TV.
Activate won’t work. As the author Alex Nunns told this newspaper in June, you can’t recreate Labour’s mass mobilisation without large numbers of activists, and Labour is the only mass membership party in Britain today.
Nor does the Tory message of lowering taxes on the rich while freeing big business to treat us like dirt and trash our planet resonate well with young people.
But if Activate is doomed to failure, the Conservative Party is not. It has beaten back the tide of history often enough before now. It is the most electorally successful party in British history, and it has not managed that without the ability to appeal to working-class voters.
Theresa May may be a dead duck and the government on its last legs, but a Labour victory depends on maintaining the radical passion for change that got out the vote in June.
It should bear that in mind before seeking to win the approval of Establishment “grown-ups,” whether in the City of London or the European Commission.
If we stick to the parameters of the possible as defined by the ruling class, the Dark Side has already won.