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New leader of Tory youth wing Oliver Cooper claims benefit reforms are 'kind'

PUBLISHED: 17:00 05 April 2013

Oliver Cooper, recently elected chairman of Conservative Future. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Oliver Cooper, recently elected chairman of Conservative Future. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

The new leader of the Conservative Party's youth wing admits the Tories are mocked by his friends but hit back at criticism of the government's benefits reforms, claiming they are "kind".

Oliver Cooper, 26, of Lithos Road, West Hampstead, was last week elected chairman of Conservative Future, which comprises all Tory party members who are under the age of 30.

The trainee lawyer has lived in Camden for the last seven years, having settled in the borough while studying for an economics degree at University College London (UCL).

He described criticism of the government’s benefit reforms as a “gross misrepresentation”.

“Benefits have increased faster than wages over the last few years,” said Mr Cooper. “As a result it has become harder for people to get off benefits and into a job.

“I think it’s immoral that the government keeps people out of jobs and in poverty with this extremely high level of benefits.

“I completely reject the accusation that this is in any way brutal, but actually kind in allowing people to get back into jobs.

“We’ve simplified the welfare system with the introduction of ‘universal credit’ and we’ve made it easier for people to get into jobs.”

Mr Cooper, who begins a training contract with a law firm specialising in intellectual property and European law in September, said becoming a Conservative was an “act of teenage rebellion”.

As a child he grew up with parents “strongly on the left of the spectrum”.

He said: “I grew up in an environment in Harrow where a lot of people had their own businesses. I think that showed me that free markets are the best way to get on in life.”

A party member since the age of 18, Mr Cooper, who worked as a journalist at The Sun for a year after leaving university, said supporting the Conservatives these days “goes against the grain”.

“You will be looked at strangely by your friends and mocked,” he said.

As Conservative Future chairman he hopes to broaden the appeal of the party to people of his generation and increase membership.

But it is in Camden that he is most keen to bring his message, targeting a seat as one of the borough’s councillors in the next council elections.

“I’d love to represent the local area – that is my ambition,” he said.

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