The chancellor asked Tory MPs to submit ideas for the budget to Kwasi Kwarteng, his parliamentary aide, as he drew attention to the difference between older people in a secure financial position and younger people saddled with huge debts if they are students.
Senior Conservatives have been telling an internal review of the snap election that the party was left vulnerable by a lack of policies for younger people, who strongly backed Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.
In a desperate hunt for ideas, Downing Street advisers have been touring Westminster thinktanks scouting for ideas to appeal to that demographic, after Corbyn won huge support for his policies on affordable housing, scrapping student fees, and a softer Brexit.
Hammond spoke about the need to address the intergenerational gap at a private meeting of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers.
One Tory MP who was present said: “There was a lot of stuff about students. He said look at us, no mortgage, everybody with a pension and never had more money in the current account. You compare that to the younger generation, if they go to university they are hit with debt … and there was a need to address that. Kwasi is his point man and we’ve been asked to submit in writing thoughts before the budget.”
MPs will be expected to keep their contributions to 250 words each but were assured that their written submissions would be taken into consideration.
The MP also described Hammond as being “incredibly barbed” on the subject of the Conservative election campaign, with the chancellor telling the gathering that he had only been “allowed out” to talk about the economy on rare occasions.
“He talked about the fact that, in his opinion, in the election campaign not enough had been made of the economy,” the MP said. “But he basically sold how important the economy is going to be. He said if you want to see what a Corbyn Britain would look like, well, just get on the plane to Caracas.”
At the end of the meeting, David Cameron made an appearance to receive his leaving gift from Tory MPs: an inscribed copy of My Early Life by Winston Churchill.
The former prime minister joked that he had feared he was going to be given a copy of the biography of Churchill written by Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary and former Vote Leave campaigner whose efforts cost Cameron his job in Downing Street.
Johnson missed the joke as he turned up late to “pay respects” to his former leader but left the room again almost immediately, exclaiming: “Damn, I missed it.”
A number of senior Tories have already been mulling over the problem of how to appeal to the young. George Freeman, the Mid Norfolk MP and chair of the Conservative policy forum, used a column in the Telegraph last week to ask: “Why would you support capitalism if you have no prospect of owning any capital?” Other senior figures, including the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, regard forcing open the housing market as key.
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs, said: “The Tories have failed young people so on education, housing and living standards that it’s no surprise they were rejected so overwhelmingly at the election.
“If Philip Hammond is looking for ideas to help young people, he could consult Labour’s manifesto For the Many not the Few for policies to scrap student fees, restore education maintenance grants, end the discrimination in the minimum wage and increasing it to £10 an hour for everyone.”
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