Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Conservative Future - Here we go again !

Problems with the youth wings of political parties are not at all new and not confined to the Conservative party.

When I was a student the Conservative student wing - then called the Federation of Conservative Students (FCS) - kept lurching from one scandal to another and was all too often an embarrassment.

The words which encapsulate for me how often things went wrong were spoken in 1984 by Paul Goodman, now Executive Editor of Conservative Home and who has also been a Tory MP but who at the time was Chairman of FCS and had just seen a totally unsuitable candidate elected as his successor: he said "Here we go again!"

FCS ended up by being shut down by Norman Tebbit for being too right-wing, which sounds like a joke but wasn't very funny when it actually happened.

Shortly before that, when the party had to set up the third official party inquiry into FCS extremism, vote-rigging and general lunacy in four years, one of the party's senior officials allegedly joked "Shouldn't we make this a standing committee?"

Then some of the same people moved into the Young Conservatives, managed to get a strong foothold in that organisation, and it had to be shut down too and replaced with Conservative Future.

The problem has come around again and tonight the Conservative party has had to suspend the National Executive of Conservative Future. Here we go again!

To judge from my twitter feed, the decision to suspend the national leadership of CF has a lot of support from rank and file Conservative Future members and branches in the North West.

Just about the only good thing to come out of the battles within the Conservative youth wings in my own youth is that those of us who managed not to be driven out of politics by it had to grow a hide like Chobham armour and a knife-proof back, which were useful assets when we came to face the less pleasant elements of Labour and the Lib/Dems in grown up politics. And ironically, although quite a few of the people I considered looney tunes when they were students are still involved in politics, most of them have grown up in both senses of the word.

Mind you, what was going on in the youth wings of the Labour and Liberal parties was no different. The Union of Liberal Students was nicknamed "Usually Left of Steel" (David Steel was the Liberal party leader at the time) and the Young Liberals were nearly as notorious for wacky views as FCS, while both the Labour Party Young Socialists and the National Organisation of Labour Students had problems with Trotskyist infiltration in general and from Militant in particular.

Let's hope the problems with Conservative Future can be quickly sorted out for the benefit of the many great young people who are involved with the party. The behaviour described on Newsnight was just not acceptable and it has to be dealt with.

But whatever the problems the Conservative party has - and we must not be complacent about them - I'd much rather have our current problems than the difficulties of the Labour party right now, where the supposedly grown-ups are behaving in a way which would disgrace a kindergarten!

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