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Here Comes the CF Generation!

John Moorcraft writes a weekly article putting current young Conservative issues into a historical context.

First and foremost, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the current CF National Chairman on being selected as the Conservative Party candidate for Tooting at the next General Election.  He will hopefully become the latest in a long line of individuals who have subsequently enjoyed successful political careers having firstly been prominent members of the young conservative movement.  Peter Walker, Sydney Chapman, David Hunt, Michael Jack, Eric Pickles, Andrew Rosindell, David Davis, Paul Goodman, John Bercow, Murdo Frasier… the list really is as lengthy as it is illustrious and I sincerely hope Mr Clarke can add his own name to it. 

Of all the groups historically associated with the young conservative movement, the YC’s in particular established a reputation second to none for preparing the politically ambitious for the world of politics and, between 1945 and 1981; sixteen of the twenty three National Chairman of this organisation subsequently entered the Houses of Parliament. However, for perhaps somewhat understandable reasons, the nineteen eighties and nineties saw the number of those with backgrounds in the young conservative movement entering Parliament diminish considerably. 

In part, I believe this can be attributed to the fact many who come through the young conservative movement’s ranks during this period have subsequently chosen to earn a crust in a profession other then politics. For example, Nick Robinson, Harry Phibbs and “Guido Fawkes” all cut their political teeth in the young conservative movement during the nineteen eighties, only to subsequently shun senior politics in favour of influencing, to varying degrees, the agenda with what they say or write. 

However, whilst a lack of willingness to enter politics does partially explain why such a significant drop in numbers occurred, it is indisputable that the political radicalisation of the young conservative movement and the subsequent unwillingness of CCO to put “radical libertarians or nationalists” on the approved list was the principal reason for why the party had to look elsewhere whenever fresh parliamentary blood was required.

Some individuals involved at the time of the establishment of Conservative Future have expressed to me in interview that one of the principal objectives of the new organisation was for it to recapture the political normality of the post-war consensus young conservative movement so that it could be relied upon as a provider of young fresh political talent.  I do not think it is an underestimation to say that CCHQ have been extremely cautious to trust those who have come through the CF ranks with high profile and winnable seats (CF didn’t help itself admittedly) and, as of the 2005 General Election, only a handful of our currently elected Members of Parliament have any experience whatsoever of the contemporary young conservative movement

However, if recent selection decisions are anything to go by, the rehabilitation of the young conservative movement finally looks to have been completed.

In the forthcoming elections in Wales, the Conservative Party is standing a number of CF aged candidates in high profile and winnable seats, with Emma Greenow (Bridgend) and  Craig Williams (Cardiff West; fighting the First Minister) leading the charge.  Over the border, two of the last five CF National Chairman have already been selected to contest winnable seats (Justin Tomlinson and Mark Clarke) and at least one more (Paul Bristow) will hopefully be joining them in the very near future.  In addition, a whole host of CF aged candidates have already been selected across the country, with Andy Stephenson leading the charge in the highly winnable Pendle, and I have no doubt many more will be adopted as the weeks and months pass. 

It would seem that, after twenty five years in the wilderness, the young conservative movement is once again considered a fertile recruitment ground from which the senior party can pluck the most willing and able to contest seats.  The conveyer belt is back in business and I for one look forward to seeing many young faces on the Conservative benches after the next election.


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