At the back of the stage at Turning Point UK’s first live event in East London, barely hidden behind the bright red banners beaming “Free Markets, Limited Government, Personal Responsibility, Duty to Others” was the MTV logo. Oddly, that’s what I remember the most.
Not Candace Owens, the uber-telegenic political A-lister who can call President Trump and Kanye West her supporters, declaring “I am not a feminist” to a loud applause from the packed out crowd. Not Charlie Kirk, the wunderkid who started Turning Point as a teen out of his parent’s garage in Illinois and turned it into a student movement spanning over a thousand college campuses in America, welcoming the audience to disagree with him in contrast to the no-platforming culture he rejects. Not Ollie Anisfeld, the CEO of Turning Point UK, telling me they got 20,000 Twitter followers in two weeks or the girl from Glasgow, who said she took a five hour train journey to come to this event but “please don’t print my name!”. Just the MTV logo.
When MTV was founded, it represented eternal youth. A clarion call to a lost generation, who felt out of place in a stifled climate. Turning Point represents that too.
Because although on the face of it, Turning Point UK looks like a Disneyfied version of the Young Conservatives. Politics as showbusiness for beautiful people. Twenty somethings on a soapbox. Scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find something much rawer and much realer that needs to be heard.
Turning Point represents a revolution of the student mind. A group of young and hungry activists, who are willing to blaze a trail through university halls for the tried-and-tested, small-c conservative values of free speech, free markets and individual liberty that so often get drowned out by the identity politics of the Left.
Yes, they’ve been derided mercilessly by the best of them. David Lammy MP referred to them as “sinister forces”. The New Statesman wrote the group off as a “white supremacist American import”. However, the charges laid against them are bizarre.
How exactly a student movement led by Candace, a 29 year old black woman, could be neo-Nazi, beggars belief. And why David Lammy would suggest that Turning Point, which only seeks the freedom of students to think and speak freely, a breaking down of trade barriers worldwide, an end to the victim mentality that prevents people from self-improvement and an over-riding acknowledgement that capitalism has done more to end poverty than any other form of governance, is “sinister” is pretty creepy in itself.
But in many ways, Candace Owens is everything the Left hates. Someone who rejects special treatment, eschews positive discrimination and spurns quotas, who just wants everyone to be treated equally without regard to colour, gender or sexual orientation. Perhaps that’s why they attack her.
“The Left’s reaction is exactly why Turning Point UK is needed”, Candace muses. “We’re necessary disruptors. We’re like Apple in the 1970s.”
And she should know. Studying at the University of Rhode Island as a politically indifferent teen, she cried when Obama was first elected. But after years of disillusionment, she decided that “Obama lied”, quit her job in private equity and launched Red Pill Black, a YouTube Channel that promotes black conservativism in the United States.
Today, she’s a proud “Trumplican”, a presidential fan who organizes self-styled “Blexit” events in the White House, aiming to move the black vote twenty points towards the Republicans by 2020. “The best thing you can do is get people to think for themselves,” she says, telling me she wants to end the “brainwashing” of ethnic minority voters.
Turning Point can see that debate on college campuses is one-sided, with the Left intimidating and silencing the rest, so they’re here to redress the balance.
And what do the Americans make of the state of British politics? On Jeremy Corbyn, they don’t mince their words.
He’s “Jew-hating Jeremy”, declares Charlie Kirk. “the Jews are one of the most beautiful people, people of tradition, people of culture, people of law, people of God. All the things that the Left hate.” And how do they account for his unprecedented popularity among young people? “He’s a youth predator,” says Candace, “offering free candy” for votes.
On Brexit, they’re equally strident. George Farmer, Chairman of Turning Point UK and Candace Owen’s fiancé, told me that May’s deal is “like Britain has lost a war and now we’re signing the Treaty of Versailles.”
But the real steel in this political movement comes out when you ask them what their endgame is. When will young people be individually empowered enough? “Until the Left stop infecting our youth, we’re never going to stop fighting,” Charlie says, looking into the long distance. These young dreamers are not for turning. Which leads me to wonder, where will they all be in the future? In parliament and Congress? Will there be a President Candace Owens? “I’ll say the same thing Trump used to … if my country needs me.” Candace says with a smile.
Watch this safe space.
An edited version of this article was published in The Spectator