Conservative Diary

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Electioneering And The Young Conservative Movement

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 thank all who felt compelled to respond to my previous article discussing the issue of race relations in the young conservative movement.  I always suspected that the article would stimulate an impassioned response from readers of CF Diary and I thank every single one of you who took the time to engage with the arguments put forward and articulate a response to the views expressed.  Whilst all the comments posted interested me enormously (even the highly negative and critical ones!), the one which perhaps struck the loudest chord in my mind was made by Mr Michael Hewlett.  Twice in the debate that ensued following the publication of my previous article, Mr Hewlett stressed the importance of focusing attention not on previous misdemeanours which may or may not have occurred in the YCs and The FCS, but instead on enthusiasm the contemporary CF generation has shown for leafleting, canvassing and electioneering in recent times. 

Now, whilst I personally believe it is important for any UK conservative to have a comprehensive appreciation of the Conservative Party’s history and I make no apologies whatsoever for highlighting how the young conservative movement has successfully won its own battle against racism, I do agree that the fantastic electioneering work undertaken recently by CF activists up and down the country deserves considerable acclaim.  I am therefore delighted to praise all those currently active in CF who have been prepared to give up a substantial amount of their time to put leaflets through letterboxes and canvass voter opinions and credit should go to the current CF Exec for planning and successfully organising some of the biggest campaign days the contemporary young conservative movement has ever seen.

Historically, the young conservative movement has perhaps been more proficient at undertaking electioneering duties then it has performing any other function for the Conservative Party and the quality and intensity of its work in election campaigns at successive General Elections has led distinguished scholar David Butler to declare the Young Conservatives “one of the most valuable elements of the electoral army”. Its reputation as a fearsome electioneering force was built in the immediate post-war period, with incidents such as West Croydon 1950 (when neighbouring East Surrey and Dorking YC branch put in over 1,000 hours of work at the General Election for the Conservative Candidate Captain Ryder) helping to establish the young conservative movement as a world class electioneering army.

Further early examples of YC electioneering brilliance include the YC National Chairman John Hay leading a staggering procession of 1,500 YCs down The Hammersmith Road in support of local YC candidate Anthony Fell (who achieved a 5.6% swing to him in what was then a safe Labour seat) and YCs in Bromley working 24/7 to ensure a Mr Edward Heath was successfully elected with a majority of 131.  The fearsome reputation of the YCs remained undiminished as the decades passed, as can be demonstrated by the praise accorded to the organisation by the senior party when a phenomenal 36 different branches assisted Crosby YC at the 1981 by-election and the fact that the historically strong Exeter YC Branch was continually prepared to offer assistance in constituencies as far away as Monmouth throughout the nineteen seventies, eighties and nineties.  Indeed, whilst philosophical differences may have caused serious factional infighting in the young conservative movement throughout the nineteen eighties and nineties, all such disputes were put on the backburner whenever an election had to be won and wets happily went electioneering alongside arids in order to defeat the common enemy that was the Labour Party.  This can be most unambiguously evidenced by looking at the 1992 General Election, where a declining and extremely factional young conservative movement was able to put internal differences aside, unite behind Prime Minister John Major and help the Conservative Party achieve narrow success at the polls. 

Although the young conservative movement has maintained an extremely favourable reputation as an indispensable electioneering force ever since the Junior Imperial League was formed way back in 1906, it is incontestable that the last couple of years have seen more CF members attending national campaign days then ever before.  Since September, we have seen around 50 CFers descend on Hammersmith and about 75 make the journey up to South Ribble, both of which constitute, to the best of my knowledge (I am happy to be corrected in the comments section!) two of the biggest campaign days the organisation has held since its establishment. These campaign days have been combined with more CF members at a local level getting involved with electioneering work then has previously been the case, something I have no doubt candidates up and down the country are extremely grateful about! 

All of this has served to remind us that the young conservative movement remains just as important an electioneering army as it has ever been and I have no doubt CF members will continue to provide as much assistance as they can to those standing in the forthcoming elections.  CF will in part be directly responsible for any electoral gains secured on May 3rd and its contribution to the electioneering efforts of The Conservative Party should never be forgotten or underplayed. 

Happy Easter!


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