People are always sniping about the cesspit that is social media, but credit where credit is due, the good people of Twitter really showed some restraint on Monday. This story started on Sunday when the Times revealed that the Tories – in a bid to compete with Labour’s growing membership and in particular their increase in youth numbers – were considering offering discounts at high-street restaurants such as Nando’s. Unfortunately for the Conservatives, no one seemed to have checked this plan with the much-loved eatery. The plan was promptly dispatched by Nando’s, who stated that the brand has “no political affiliation” and that a political discount card does not exist.
You’d think that such a desperate and embarrassing affair involving chicken would set the internet on fire, but it didn’t. Sure, a couple of people mentioned being “peri-peri surprised” about the whole thing, but it would have been rude not to. But nobody asked whether Ben Bradley – the Tory vice-chair for youth for whom another gaffe is always just around the corner (see here and here) – was just winging it, or whether the “sauce” who leaked the story was going to get a grilling.
It’s unclear whether the events have ruffled any feathers at Conservatives HQ, but they will need to hatch a better plan than this if they are going to get youth numbers up. Reports say the average Conservative party member is no spring chicken – 72 to be precise – so there is now a real risk of killing the party off for good in a generation or so. And while I certainly don’t want to egg this whole thing on, it did strike me as cocky to think a discount card would even get close to winning the hearts and minds of the young.
Sure, old wisdom would have it that the young would naturally lean to the right as they age, and perhaps they only need a platter-shaped nudge, but those were trends created when the young would have also naturally grown into secure employment and housing, not a lifetime in debt and no pension provision (as is the case for four in 10 millennials). Really, how out of touch is everyone at Conservative HQ? At least when Jeremy Corbyn was apparently bribing young people it involved £50k of student debt, not a discounted game of wing roulette.
I can’t help but wonder whatever made them think Nando’s would be up for such a deal given the potential damage to the brand. Perhaps it would have brought the restaurant new customers – shy Tories tempted out of anonymity by the thrill of the grill – or perhaps the Conservatives weren’t completely barmy thinking Nando’s could be an ally. Nando’s was revealed, after all, to be using an offshore tax haven in 2014. They may have more in common than we like to think.
But frankly, I’m just glad this whole thing is over. The idea of a Nando’s-Tories collaboration fills me with dread and gives me visions of a cartoon rooster version of David Davis on the menu saying something vague yet ominous like “nobody said eating would be easy”. And anyway if discounts at Nando’s are what you’re after you’re much better off joining the police, the NHS or the fire service, who get 20% off, and who probably need it after years of Conservative-led austerity measures and public sector pay freezes. There’s nothing cheeky about that.