If the Militant Tendency was Labour's 1980s Loony Left, the Federation of Conservative Students was the Conservative Party's Loony Right (albeit on a much smaller scale). Radio 4 has just broadcast the second of two 15 minute reflections on the FCS. Presented by The Times' columnist Tim Hames, A Burst of Freedom highlighted some of the Federation's enthusiasms:
- The legalisation of heroin and prostitution (ideas not so far removed from today's mainstream);
- The likening of Holy Communion to cannabilism;
- Unlimited migration into and out of Britain.
The FCS often behaved like an extreme left-wing organisation - seeking ideological purity throughout its ranks. It attempted to disaffiliate colleges and universities that were controlled by 'wets' or other 'unsound' undesirables. It appeared to war with other Tories as much as with the National Union of Students - 'the last closed shop' it hated so much. The wets took their revenge in 1986 when 'a riot' of drunken FCS members at a Loughborough University conference caused what was reported at the time as thousands of pounds of damage (although Tim Hames reported tonight that the damage was actually very slight). The FCS was successfully spun against by one of its 'wet targets' - a young Nick Robinson who went on to report on today's political spinners.
The FCS was finally disbanded by Tory Chairman Norman Tebbit. The last straw was a copy of the FCS magazine which branded former Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan a war criminal for agreeing to the deportation of Cossacks back to Stalin's Soviet Union. Tebbit had to get a court order to stop the magazine's distribution.
Some FCS veterans have now dropped out of politics. Some continue to cause trouble. Brian Monteith was recently forced to resign from the Tory group of MSPs for briefing against David McLetchie. Others like Nick Gibb and John Bercow have moderated over the years and have given up libertarian capitalism to embrace views held by most of the liberal establishment. Many now find themselves inside Conservative Way Forward - the organisation formed during the Major years to keep the party on a sound and Thatcherite path.