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And others write Guido Fawkes blog. Allegedly ;)

Does the Conservative Way Forward include approval of Hague threatening Roger Helmer with deselection for asking reasonable questions about EU corruption?

Does it approve of Hague's measures which have prompted the likely departure of eurosceptic MEP's like Hannan and Heaton Harris, as they seek Westminster seats? Who will want to replace them other than hardline europhiles?

While rightly celebrating Eric Forth's Forthright contribution in the past, what about backing up Roger Helmer for his courageous stand going on now?

Hague's chosen to dismantle the eurosceptic wing of the Euro Parliamentary delegation. Any comments about that, CWF?

All it takes is for good men to keep silent..... Can't Wait Forever.

Brings back a lot of memories - as it must for Tim Hames who was a member of FCS National Committee 1985-6.

During the 1970's and 80's all the major parties had problems with their student and youth wings - Labour had problems with Militants in NOLS (National Organisation of Labour Students) and the Union of Liberal Students was sometimes referred to as "Usually Left of Steel." But it said it all when the Federation of Conservative Students was shut down by Norman Tebbit for being too right wing.

Those of us who were Conservatives of mainstream views at the time had to develop armour-plated backs; we would spend half our time being called "fascist" by socialists because we were in the Conservative party and then turn up to meetings where we should have been able to find friends and get accused of being socialists and communists because we didn't want to invade Poland.

If you think I'm exaggerating, I will never forget going to FCS conference as a first year student, having regarded myself up to that point as fairly right wing, and being denounced from the platform as a "wishy washy namby pamby moderate" by no less a figure than the Federation Chairman for suggesting that it might be a bad idea to start the Third World War by sending weapons to putative rebels in Poland.

There were several factions in FCS. The group who people are usually thinking of when they refer to FCS were the "libertarians" who wanted to privatise everything in sight, including money, legalise hard drugs, etc. There was an "authoritarian" faction, of more traditional right wingers, which sometimes allied itself with the libertarians and sometimes with the moderates. And there were those of more moderate views, invariably referred to by the others as "wets." The two moderate FCS leaders from this era who are now in parliament are Paul Goodman and Mark Francois. The fact that these people - both of whom I like and respect - were considered "wet" may give informed people reading this an idea of what the political spectrum was like within FCS.

Fortunately, thank God, almost all those who were involved in the politics of the FCS era have since grown up and learned something from how damaging all the petty feuds of that period were.

It continued long after the FCS, Chris. I remember going to a Conservative Collegiate Forum event at the turn of the nineties and 'my fellow Conservatives' were singing 'hang Nelson Mandela' after they had had one too many beers.

The wets were in cahoots with the NUS in attacking Thatcher. They supported the NUS closed shop and opposed voluntary student unions. Anna Soubry, an NUS executive member, called for abortion on demand.

It is sad that John Bercow and Nick Gibb have sold out. Brian Monteith was proved right about David McLetchie.

When I was in the FCS in the mid-1970s it was decidedly left-wing (even more so than the current Cameron Party). One of the leaders told me he thought The Times was "dangerously right-wing", at a time when I considered it to be alarmingly left-wing... I suppose these things go in cycles, so it is misleading to label the FCS as either right or left, as it seems to have swung between extremes. Students love to challenge "authority", so I guess it should be no surprise they like to shock. Good for them!

"singing 'hang Nelson Mandela' after they had had one too many beers."

Oh, still goes on at some of the better CF University branches. Nothing quite like knowing the socialists who run the SU don't want to get out of bed because of the stuff they know you'll try to pull....

Didn't the libertarian tendency go so far as to call for the legalisation of incest?

Richard - I believe yes, but of course only between consenting adults.

Dear God, is it possible to have any thread on this site that doesn't end up with a reference to Roger Bloody Helmer?

I was a proud member of FCS and regard Norman Tebbit's closing it down as a rare mistake in his brilliant career. Most of the ideas are now more or less mainstream, and how long can it be before the "War on Drugs" is finally recognised as being every bit as stupid as Prohibition? Had FCS not been surprised and its intellectuals lost to the mainstream party, the Tories might have some better ideas now than "us too, Tony".

There is a great deal of nonsense and mythology spun about FCS in the eighties, mostly by people that did not see it in the seventies.

It was always the party organisation where influences on conservative ideas and fashions were most passionately debated with no prisoners taken and no quarter given. Those that were at the Sheffield annual conference of 1981 will never forget the leaked "Neasden Papers" being revealed by outgoing Vice Chairman Tim Janman (later MP) that exposed the undemocratic and corrupt lengths that the anti-Thatcher pro-Heath faction had gone to to try and win back FCS for the "wet" cause. The wets were routed and within a year three FCS Chairman from 1977,1978 and 1979 had all joined the SDP, with failed wet candidate Anna Soubry following them.

It is in the context of that battle for the heart and soul of the party that the FCS history must be viewed - it was the visible evidence of what was happening in the parliamentary party and in Thatcher's cabinet.

In contrast the "wet" controlled national YCs regularly attacked Thatcher and her supportive ministers such as Keith Joseph. YC fringe meetings at Tory conferences wheeled out TRG grandees like Walker and Heseletine and former PMs like Macmillan and Heath to have a go at Thatcher.

The smuggling of samizdat material into the Soviet Union and the establishing of links with pro-democracy, pro-West student groups in Poland and Romania would never have happened if the "Wets" had won in 1980, 81 or 82. That Paul Goodman, the sole "Wet" chairman of the 80s, is now drier than the Gobi Desert is because Thatcher won her ideological and policy battles in the party and her leadership won the support of the nation. Goodman converted and is quite open about this if you ask him.

It is a myth that the libertarians won control of FCS in the eighties, they were usually the most creative, inventive and humourous exponents of free markets, hawkish foreign policy and a robust anti-IRA position (regularly visiting student unions in Ulster), but they were only part of whart was called the "Sound" faction. Of the three factions the sound" faction was the one catching the zeitgeist, it was the one in touch with Margaret Thatcher's economic and social reforms - it was the most representative of where Margaret Thtacher was taking the Country - despite the misgivings of many in her party.

The "Wets" wanted Heathite corporatism, price controls, incomes policies and public spending programmes to return. Meanwhile the "Shits", as the Authoritarians were known, wanted immigration to be the main issue (even in student unions!) objected to the privatisation of British Steel and demanded, just like the Greenham Common wimmin, that US Cruise Missiles be sent home (because they were American and not British missiles). Yes, some libertarians argued for legalisation of all drugs, open immigration (like we now have in the European Union) and a secular state (disestablishment of the Church of England) but the libertarians were only part of the "Sound" faction and to suggest otherwise is to continue the sterile, redundant arguments that were defeated in FCS and in the Party – thanks to emphatic and regular victories of Thatcher and her "Sound" supporters.

That FCS was closed down says more about the inability of Norman Tebbit (in particular his staff) and John Bercow to reign in the more outspoken members, a problem that had plagued all factions. What is certain is that the the party has suffered gravely since then without a genuine youth movement that would speak its own mind and provide the footsodiers and candidates of breadth of background and quality that the party now admits it needs.

Student politics of whatever party is usually viewed with a hint of embarrasment when one reaches 40.As a student in the early 80's my recollections are no different.'Hang Nelson Mandela' was mild compared to some of the songs I heard. Even though I was lucky to be at UEA at the same time as people like Chris Whiteside and Iain Dale I often felt I had far more in common with the SDP than I did with the extremely right wing views of the FCS leadership of that time.

It is nice to see Chris Whiteside posting on this site.

Perhaps he could explain his poor performance as the PPC for Copeland in 2005. The Conservative share of the vote fell from 37.5% in 2001 to 31.7% in 2005. That is not Priority List form.

FCS Hack: You have now attacked two fellow Conservatives on one thread. Very FCS and quite enough thank you.

As a matter of public record , during my five years as a student at a University in Wales in the early 90's I was succesively a member of the Socialist Workers Student Soc, Lib Dem Student Soc, Militant Students Soc (slogan : Solidarity and socialism)and the Catholic Society. Of these i only look back with faint regret on my Lib Dem involvement although on the plus side i did get to hear Simon Hughes address a small meeting in the Student Union building.
So anyway , i suppose for some of us the road to Torysville has been a litle bit serpentine.
Apologies to the Editor incidentally for my involvement in our less than fabulous policy discussion thread a day or so ago. It was a shame things got so sidetracked, my apologies if i contributed to this.

They were factual statements, Editor.

It was you who attacked fellow Conservatives, i.e FCS members, through your comments on the thread and the "loony right" definition.

Fair comment FCS Hack. I did label the FCS as the loony right and I stand by my comment. I must insist you don't attack individuals on this thread, however, as I have no way of verifying what is often written and I'd rather this part of ConservativeHome (unmoderated) focuses on broad questions of policy and strategy etc. This is particularly important given that you are hiding behind anonymity and are using a false email address.

It would appear that - contrary to Chris's earlier assertion - not all of those involved in FCS have since grown up!

I think the obvious lesson here is about factionalism and division. The Conservative Party never got anywhere by accusing other Party members of "not being Conservatives". Unfortunately there are still a tedious minority who do this today, both within CF and the wider Party, but fortunately it is a minority.

Of course the disbanding of the FCS has led to the situation CF is now in, where it faces the impossible task of running an organisation to cater for the ages 12-30. I wonder if it's feasible to restart a students organisation without it turning into a far right wing loony bin?

Editor, you are the one that has, by the terms of your opening sentence

"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)."

set up a debate that will always stray into petty name-calling and the repetition of ill-founded or distorted accusations that paint one group of Tory activists as moderate and therefore safe and good and another group as extreme, loony and dangerous. If this is how Conservativehome.com wishes to build a united movement for a Conservative victory then there shall be a long wait.

A typical example of this is for people to throw around the accusation that FCS called for Nelson Mandela to be hanged. This was never FCS policy and again is being taken out of context of how the slogan came about.

In the early 80s a Trotskyist sticker was produced that said " Free Nelson Mandela and all ANC prisoners - they are freedom fighters". This was at a time when Marxist international terrorism was at its height; the IRA was blowing people up including Airey Neave, the Red Brigade had kidnapped and murdered the Italian Premier and the links between the IRA, ETA, various Palestinian splinter groups, and Marxist terrorists in Africa and Southern America was self evident. Libya boasted of the arms and training it provided to the ANC and other murderers - and they were murderers resolved to bring about revolution. The Trotskyists wanted Mandela freed because they wanted a bloody regime in South Africa similar to the type brought about in other former European colonies.

As was often the style in those days the design and graphics of the left was copied exactly (by FCS members in the East Midlands) but the words changed to "Hang Nelson Mandela and all terrorists – they are murderers". It was done intentionally to wind up the left and it succeeded. These same targets had supported Bobby Sands and had cheered at the NUS conference when the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan was announced to the delegates. They also produced stickers with Margaret Thatcher's hands shaped as blood stained axes, but that was all right, the left were allowed to do these sorts of things with impunity.

There was a genuine debate at the time about whether or not convicted IRA murderers should be hanged or not and Mandela was seen as no worse or no better than the republican assassins. No one, be they on the right or left really knew of Mandela, whether he was a murderer or a democrat and it is only in hindsight that, rather smugly, people now talk of the shocking "FCS" call for his death.

Mandela's conversion to the peaceful resolution of complex and potentially bloody power struggles is obviously a great relief but it was not foreseen by anyone – certainly not the left that wanted his release. If anything Mandela’s leadership since release can be shown as an argument that prison works and that death penalties don't (the British execution of the Easter Rising rebels being an example of what can go wrong). That this particular notorious slogan of the time is used to portray an FCS that supported peaceful change in South Africa - but most importantly a strong defence and foreign policy to bring about the end of the Soviet Empire – is unfortunate and ironic, but this is always the risk that the bad taste school of student politics will deliver. It still does not prove that FCS members or its leadership was extreme, loony or would, when many of them became MPs, continue to behave in such a provocative manner.

That one or two nutters might be simple enough to miss the irony, believe their own slogans and sing songs was nothing other than (often alcohol fuelled) over enthusiasm and immaturity. It should not be used to denigrate an organisation that argued bravely and often under violent intimidations for Tory government policy on campus with great success and produced a training ground for many of the now noticeably calm and moderate MPs in the party.

The “Sound” FCS leadership was vilified by its internal opponents for advocating free markets, sound money, privatisation, tax cuts, deployment of Cruise and Pershing missiles and yes, Student Loans. That these policies were vindicated by history means that the “Hang Nelson Mandela” episode and other unrepresentative and unofficial ideas are all that’s left to suggest FCS was in the wrong. It wasn’t and it is to be regretted that the editor of conservativehome.com has become part of the big lie.

When I wrote my initial response to the article about FCS I said how fortunate it was that most of those involved in the Federation who were still active in politics had since grown up and had learned something from the damage caused by factionalism in those days. Sadly in the case of whoever is hiding behind the title of "FCS Hack," I obviously spoke too soon.

I agree entirely with the editor's comments about the desirability of avoiding attacks on individuals but since this person has challenged the performance not just of myself but also of the people who worked hard on my behalf at the last election I hope I may be permitted to answer his question.

There are two things in particular which have to be borne in mind when comparing the election results in Copeland in 2001 and 2005.

1) The 2001 election took place right in the middle of the "Foot and Mouth" crisis in which Cumbria was far and away the worst affected county. All the seats in Cumbria showed well above average swings to the Conservatives in 2001 as a result. The swing to the Conservatives in Copeland in 2001 was the sixth highest in the whole country, though an excellent campaign by my predecessor, Mike Graham, deserves some of the credit for that. By 2005 memories of Labour's ghastly mishandling of Foot and Mouth had slipped back a little and the county trend in Cumbria, particularly in the four winnable seats, was below the national trend.

2) The 2001 election in Copeland was a straight fight with just three candidates. In 2005 there were six candidates, with the addition of UKIP, English Democrat, and an Independent who was standing on the issue of local hospitals. The UKIP and English Democrat candidates clearly took far more Conservative than Labour votes, and the Independent candidate's line on the threat to local hospitals was far closer to mine than to the Labour candidate. Were it not for the intervention of the three minor candidates, who between them took over 2000 votes, the result would have been much closer and we would almost certainly have cut the Labour majority.

There were a number of other factors which may have affected the results, including the change in the Labour candidate - an MP who had never lived in the constituency during his 35 year tenure was replaced by a local man - and the strong hints dropped during the election by the Chairman of BNFL that Tony Blair had promised new nuclear build if he were re-elected. In a constituency where 17,000 jobs depend directly or indirectly on the nuclear industry this was undoubtedly a major vote winner.

Given that the 2001 election in Copeland was exceptional, a fairer assessment may be to compare the Copeland results in 2005 not with the previous election but the one before that. On that basis, between 1997 and 2005 the Labour majority in Copeland was halved from 12,000 to 6,000. That compares quite well with the national trend."

Chris has now had his right of reply but this isn't a thread about Chris Whiteside's skills as a candidate and I'll delete any further comments that are off topic - so don't waste your time making them.

I can only agree about the dangers of factionalism but these problems have never been confined to the fringes of the Conservative Party. During the last Parliament, it seemed that hardly a week went by without the likes of John Bercow, Michael Portillo, Nick Gibb, Chris Patten, and Alan Duncan using the BBC and left-leaning newspapers to attack the Party leadership and other members of the Party. And that was just the wrecakge whcih floated to the surface. The so-far-suppressed story of the role of Francis Maude in the defenestration of Iain Duncan-Smith is one which deserves to be told....

Let's not go there Michael please!

I won't....other than to point out that I am just being tough on cant and tough on the causes of cant.


Various policy successes, eg Flat Tax in Eastern Europe, No to the Euro, legalisation of gay marriage have libertarian, if not FCS, origins. There's other areas, eg decriminalising drugs where potential remains for a new Conservative way of dealing with a long-term problem.

The FCS, as a whole and not just its excesses, should be measured against its successors, none of which have been over-successful in motivating and shaping a dynamic campaigning party. Its disappointing to see that so few Conservative Student (successor of FCS) activists are still actively involved. CCO interference in the Student wings of the party doesn't seem to have achieved much in the long-term.

If you are not going to go over-the-top when you are a student, when are you going to do so?

Loony? Some of the FCS cadre were bonkers, some were brilliant. It was always a lot of fun. Do I regret any of it? Not really, I wore my blue star with pride.

I have to agree with an earlier comment that one looks back on one's student politics with embarrassement. I certainly do - having knocked on doors to canvass votes for Foot's Labour Party in 1983. (and believe me, that WAS a thankless task).

The old adage maybe applies as much to the right as the left - many young people are Socialists. Then they grow up.

Thats me! I used to be a bit of a maoist. Now i'm a Francis Maudeist

My memories of the FCS (I was at the Robinson and Woodroofe chaired NYC conferences) were that they sported teeshirts proclaiming themselves as "blue marxists". If by marxist they meant that they viewed everyone and everything solely as a function of its financial worth; and that they believed in crude economic determinism (that is, they denied the existence of a soul) then of course they were marxists -- and just as wrong as marxists (it's a good analytical tool but that's all) -- and just as given to factional infighting as any other tawdry sect (witness the still-evident fury in the "sounds" vs the "wets" above). They were also aesthetically repugnant (I don't mean to look at[**]), which of course in their terms is a meaningless statement; but I wasn't the only ultra dry right wing Glasgow[*] student who refused to have anything to do with them because of their antics. The YCs, especially in North Ayrshire, were much more our sort of person (eg not given to singing thuggish chants about Nelson Mandela).

[*] The screamingly wet Glasgow University Tory Club did manage to keep Glasgow Uni free from the NUS closed shop, despite probably being everything the average FCSer would have hated back then!

[**] Some of them were actually lethally sexy. I'll remember being lambasted by one very "sound" man called Billy at the Glasgow Uni Tory club anniversary dinner of December 1986 or 87 for as long as I live.

You remember the lambasting, but not the date? Strange.

Sad to see the Editor repeating some of the leftist and Heathite anti-FCS propaganda from 20 years ago.

some of theFederation's enthusiasms:

"The legalisation of heroin.." - personal view of one national chairman. Always opposed by FCS.

"...and prostitution" - never voted on.

"The likening of Holy Communion to cannabilism" - I was closely involved in FCS and I've never even heard of this trope. I suppose it's possible that a single college branch could have passed such a motion as a joke.

"Unlimited migration into and out of Britain." - ah yes, the infamous Leicester half-yearly conference motion. It was narrowly passed - thanks to some wets voting dialectically. Of course, it's now also (undeclared) Government policy but that's a subject for another day.

FCS was one of the most vibrant, successful and intellectually engaged political organisations the British right has ever had. It was OTT but was the constant target of diehard Heathites and NUS Marxists who hated it not for it's more outre pronouncements but because it stood up for Maggie when it was hard to do so.

Sad to see that the majority of pro FCS people posting here criticising the Editor do not have the courage to post under their own names.

Not sure I'd call Norman Tebbit a diehard Heathite.

Wasn't Mark MacGregor a leading light within FCS or am I getting my wires crossed?

He was DVA.

Guido makes an important point: the time to advance the agenda is when one is carefree. It is a variant on the old maxim that a young man should be an idealist when he is young and a conservative when he is older.

The quasi-nationalisation of the YCs and Students - and the constraints placed on the old NACG - were exaccerbated when CF was formed. Those of us around at the time CF was created were assured we would operate with more freedom. The converse has been the case.

Memories, what memories. I remember being at the 1985 Loughborough conference and being appalled by what went on - especially on the Night of the Long Bootnails, when my bedroom door was kicked in. FCS was a very odd organmisation at the time. I stood to get on its Exec in 1983 at the Durham Conference but I put myself forward as a "non faction candidate". I came within a whisker of getting on, whcih was a fair achievement as I wasn't on the Libertarian or Wet slate. But I was bloody relieved not to be on it, to be honest.

People I remember from those days are Marc Glendenning, Mark MacGregor, Dougie Smith, Chris Whiteside, Paul Goodman and D J Saunders.
As Chris says above, it comes to something when we remember Paul Goodman as a wet!

I wonder if "lethal", "FCS Hack", "truth about FCS" and "YC 80s" are friends or all the same person. The comments are rather similar in style.

Anybody who can say
"If anything Mandela’s leadership since release can be shown as an argument that prison works and that death penalties don't"
must have a couple of screws loose.

Nothing so pathetic as someone who has been proved wrong and then tries to present the proof as a vindication of an unrelated theory he claims to have been spouting all along.

I believe Madsen Pirie refers to it as Ignoratio Elenchi

Wasn't Mark MacGregor a leading light within FCS or am I getting my wires crossed?

Indeed he was, and MacGregor's activities sufficiently riled the then party Chairman, Lord Tebbit, that to this day he will issue press releases seemingly designed to impede MacGregor's efforts to enter parliament.

It was OTT but was the constant target of diehard Heathites...

Noy quite how I'd describe Lord Tebbit...

... who hated it not for it's more outre pronouncements but because it stood up for Maggie when it was hard to do so.

Yet when John Gummer stopped the FCS's annual grant, Sir Alfred Sherman said that Gummer was acting because the FCS's senior members were idiologically close to Maggie. Sherman wrote that Gummer's actions were "directed against the Prime Minister".

Does anyone remember Harry Phibbs? He's now married and writes ant-Tory stories in the London Evening Standard's Londoner's Diary and the odd non-story in the property section on the Telegraph.

Harry Phibbs writes for the Social Affairs Unit blog (see here.)

I remember when he and Dougie Smith turned up in the bar of the Oxford Union, looking for Tim Hames, I imagine. They didn't get a particularly friendly reaction.

"Thats me! I used to be a bit of a maoist. Now i'm a Francis Maudeist"

I'm not sure what's worse.

"Indeed he was, and MacGregor's activities sufficiently riled the then party Chairman, Lord Tebbit, that to this day he will issue press releases seemingly designed to impede MacGregor's efforts to enter parliament."

I heard that Lord Tebbit wasn't too enamoured with MacGregor's leading role in the downfall of his successor in Chingford as leader of the party either, and I can't say I blame him.

Lord Tebbit said: "I think that he's a destructive force, in my view, within the Conservative Party.

"I don't think he was a good chief executive... I think that he was not a good influence in Central Office - that's my judgement."


From all that I've heard about Mark Mcgregor, I think that Lord Tebbit's misgivings are justified.

Ah yes - that's right. I may not be Norman Tebbit's biggest fan, but I will admit that his judgement was spot on with regards Mark MacBackstabber and his disgraceful conduct at CCO (as was).

Er, but were these radio programmes any good?

Yes, Tim. Thank you!

Well... all this talk of the old days... just for the record... it was Guido who did the T-shirts and Camerons Chief Speechwriter was on the FCS National Committee along with Macgregor et al... FCS gets to write the speeches and the wets (Nick Robinson) get to read em out on TV!

When FCS was closed down didn't someone set up an alternative "Conservative Students" orgasation? I remember seeing right wingers wearing stickers with blue stars at the 1987 Young Conservatives Conference in Scarborough, the one where Richard Fuller made his infamous "I am not a Thatcherite speach". There was also an organisation called "Popular Propaganda" at the time where you buy "Ollie North for President T-Shirts" and blue star badges (as opposed to Communist Red Stars). Lots of us on the right wore our blue stars with pride!

Was there not something else here about Mr Smith?

Has it been removed? If so why?

I came across this debate quite by chance. And was amused to see that some people are still as outraged by our behaviour as they were back then.

"Guido" - yes we certainly knew how to have fun! A movement party was always a blast. (Notwithstanding the fact that certain people didn't know the correct use of a shower.)

Chris - do you still have your umbrella?

I have some "wets" on my FB friends list.... some of us can move on.

By far the worst thing ever to happen to FCS was the election of Peter Young. Though certainly charismatic, he was also often offensive and arrogant. He habitually referred to an Asian member of his student flat by a racist expression that would probably now be illegal to repeat. And can anyone who was around at the time forget that he nearly lost a defamation action in 1979 for printing a few stickers declaring "I've not slept with Xxx Xxxxx"? The "Xxx Xxxxx" was a fellow Tory student who had spurned his advances and, as only a fraction of rooms on campus bore such a sticker, the implication was that she was prolific with her favours. For that reason alone, if for nothing else such as his other misdeeds reported in the Aberdeen University "Gaudie", he should have been kicked out of FCS.

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