At the back of the stage at Turning Point UK’s first live event in East London, 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, loved by President Trump and Kanye West, who declares “I am not a feminist” to a loud applause from the packed auditorium. 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. Not Ollie Anisfeld, the CEO of Turning Point UK, who tells me they gained 20,000 Twitter followers in two weeks. Not 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 acted as a clarion call to a lost generation, who felt out of place in a stifled climate. Turning Point represents that too.
On the face of it, Turning Point UK looks like a Disneyfied version of the Young Conservatives. But to dismiss it as a prettified rehash of the Conservative party would be wrong: what Turning Point wants to bring about is a revolution of the student mind. It shouldn’t really be revolutionary: a group of young and hungry activists, championing the small-c conservative values of free speech, free markets and individual liberty. Turning Point’s ideas, after all, are hardly new. But, when set against the identity politics of the Left and in the absence of a UK political party truly espousing these values, it is easy to see how these old ideas seem suddenly fresh and original.
Perhaps this explains why Turning Point has 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.
It takes a fairly skewed rationale to call Turning Point neo-Nazi when it is led by Candace, a 29 year old black woman. And why David Lammy would suggest that the movement, which argues extensively for the role that capitalism can play in ending poverty and rejects ‘victim mentality’ in favour of opportunity for all, is “sinister” is difficult to understand. What is truly sinister is how this word has become short-hand for ideas that are simply not one’s own.
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 organises 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. On Brexit, they’re 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. “Until the Left stop infecting our youth, we’re never going to stop fighting,” Charlie says. These young idealists 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.