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Is It Time To Bring Back The FCS?

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

Just as with my previous article considering the prospect of CF members entering Parliament sooner rather then later, I would like to begin this piece by offering my congratulations to an individual active in Conservative Future who this week successfully attained a position even they themselves would not have expected to acquire only a few weeks ago. On Wednesday evening, Mr Richard Gale was elected to the Cardiff University CF Branch Executive and, whist one could argue this particular accomplishment is somewhat less notable then the achievements of Mr Clarke down in Tooting, I would wager good money Richard was as stunned by this result as Mark was when hearing he was going to be contesting a seat for us at the next General Election. As an occasional attendee at Cardiff University CF executive meetings (the need to maintain academic objectiveness regrettably permits me from being anything more), I look forward to working alongside Mr Gale in the coming months and I have no doubt whatsoever his contributions will ensure the branch continues to move forward.

The recent electoral activity within the CF branch I am a member of got me thinking about the historically unusual situation Mr Gale finds himself in as a young conservative in full time education (I know; I really should get out more). Had Mr Gale been attending university between 1931 and 1998, he would not be automatically lumped into an organisation designed to represent the political and social interests of all party members aged between 15 and 30. Instead he would have been welcomed by an organisation (FUCUA, FCS, CCF… the group he would have been welcomed by depends upon when he joined) designed specifically to represent the political and social interests of only those young conservatives who, like him, were in full or part time education.

Had Mr Gale been attending university between 1967 and 1998, he would not be represented by national officers who have to delicately balance the needs of both 18 year old undergraduates and 27 year old young professionals, not to mention the books, when planning national events. Instead, he would have been represented by national officers whose sole concern was using their own budget (completely separate from YC funding) to put on quality events of appeal only to students. Consequently, had Mr Gale been attending university between the stated dates, he would not have had to make do with anything as shabby as the Student Life conference/training day held in a dusty backroom of the GMEX during Spring Forum last year. Instead, he would have had the opportunity to attend numerous well organised, good quality conferences and training days, just like the one apparently accorded to "Working Life" members of Conservative Future last year.

Ever since Conservative Future was established to encompass all members of the Conservative Party aged under 30, there have been some both inside and outside the young conservative movement who have questioned whether one organisation can adequately represent the political and social interests of both a 15 year old student and a 29 year old worker. Around the turn of the century, some on the fringes of CF argued for the establishment of a separate student organisation on the premise they believed those involved nationally at the time were focusing on issues of pertinence only to students at the expense of holding events designed to appeal to working professionals.

At the moment, we are currently seeing the case for a separate student organisation being put again; only this time the idea is being mooted by those active on campus who believe, in my assessment incorrectly, they have been forgotten by national officers more interested in holding working life events in and around London. At the time of writing, one group set up on a well known networking website advocating the establishment of a separate student organisation for young conservatives has a small, but notable, membership of around 30.

Of course, there are many good reasons for keeping the current organisational structure exactly how it is; some of which I intend to explore in further detail in my article next week. Personally, I remain unconvinced that the current one size fits all structure is the best way for the young conservative movement to move forward and I believe the establishment of a separate young conservative student organisation would be of benefit to everyone…


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