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Young Conservatives (UK)

The Young Conservatives (YC) is the youth wing of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom for members aged 25 and under.[4] The organisation shares the same values and policies as its parent political party with branches being an integrated part of local associations, with the exception of college and university branches which are run independently.[5] YC is both social and political, aiming to bring together young conservatives and encouraging young people to get involved in campaigning.[6]

Young Conservatives
Founded 16 March 2018
Headquarters 4 Matthew Parker Street, London SW1A
Ideology Conservatism[1]
Economic liberalism[2]
British unionism
Mother party Conservative Party
International affiliation International Young Democrat Union[3]
European affiliation European Young Conservatives
Website Young Conservatives



The Junior Imperial and Constitutional League was formed in 1906 with objectives to encourage practical political work and organisation among young people in Britain. Junior Associations were set up in each Parliamentary Division and throughout the British Empire, co-operating closely with Conservative and Unionist Associations with an ambition to create Imperial unity and to further the Conservative and Unionist cause.

In 1925 the Young Britons Organisation was formed as the juvenile branch of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations. It closed down during the Second World War.

After the Conservative Party suffered a catastrophic defeat in the 1945 general election, the Young Britons Organisation was reformed to cater for both boys and girls aged 6–16, while the Young Conservatives was set up to cater for an older age group.

Young Conservatives (1906-1998)Edit

Young Conservatives fancy dress dance, mid 1950s

The Young Conservatives attracted a large following and, by 1955, claimed a membership of 150,000. This made it the largest political youth movement in a liberal democracy,[citation needed] though not all its members were strongly motivated by politics. A large part of its appeal lay in its social activities that brought young people together in a socially safe environment. Countless middle-class British couples met, and (according to Eric Pickles) babies conceived,[citation needed] at the "YC's" dances, rambles, and charity events in the 1950s. However, the social dimension of the movement was to prove its ultimate downfall.[clarification needed] One large factor in the rapid decline in membership was the factionalism that gripped the movement in the early 1980s, first manifesting itself during Eric Pickle's chairmanship.

'... his year in office was not without its difficulties. The radical right was a growing force in young Tory politics. The S.D.P. had recently been founded and disillusioned liberals in both the Labour and Conservative parties were deserting to the new "centre" party. At the Young Conservative's national conference in Eastbourne in February 1981, Pickles presided over a growing split in the ranks, particularly between northern "liberals" and southern "right-wingers".


From that point onwards, a battle for leadership ensued between the moderates ('One Nation' Tories, termed 'Wets') and 'Drys' (Right-wingers from the Monday Club and Libertarians). The moderates attempted to play up the image problems the Young Monday Club and the Libertarians would present to the organisation. Publications such as the North West Area YC Rag Mag, the Sin, featured a page in 1985 attacking the Young Monday Club image. The 1989 Sin edition attempted to target the growing libertarian threat by featuring 'Loonie Libs.' [8]

The capture of the Young Conservatives by the 'Dries' in 1989 led to increasing image problems as the more right-wing stance became pilloried in the media. "The very term 'Young Conservative' has actually entered popular culture in a derogatory way being used by comedians to lampoon a certain type of person." [9] The BBC series A Bit of Fry and Laurie, featured a sketch entitled 'Young Conservative of the Year', the basis of which was an arrogant, right-wing and upper class Young Conservative competing in a mock contest on the reactionary and authoritarian content of his speech in a mock contest. Even more hard-hitting was Harry Enfield's BBC series, Harry Enfield and Chums, he in which he played a character called 'Tory Boy', an arrogant and reactionary right-wing Young Conservative.

Past ChairmenEdit

The National Chairmen of the Young Conservatives were associated with the moderate (One Nation - Tory Reform Group) tradition of the Conservative Party until the 1989 election in which resulted in the defeat of the moderate incumbent. Until then leadership had been from the Conservative party 'left' with only a couple of exceptions. Notable exceptions to the 'One Nation' moderate leadership were David Atkinson MP who as a committed Christian campaigner and backer of corporal punishment and Sir Fergus Montgomery MP, a supporter of apartheid South Africa and another corporal punishment advocate. Otherwise the YC's produced a long line of Tory reformers until the moderate faction was finally defeated in the late 1980s, although Clive Landa's defeat of Christopher Horne, the chairman of the Hyde Park Tories, in the 1973 election in Greater London was far closer than was expected, even by the supporters of both candidates.[10][11]

Past Vice ChairmanEdit

A large number of Vice Chairmen have gone on to other prominent positions in the Party and hold public office at local and national level. These include: Patrick McLoughlin MP, Robert Atkins MP, Kenneth Lane, Anthea McIntyre MEP and Robin Squire MP.

Membership fell from a peak of 250,000 to just a few thousand, while the rival organisation Conservative Students claimed significantly more members. The end came in 1998 when Conservative leader William Hague announced the closure of Young Conservatives and the launch of a new organisation, Conservative Future.

Conservative Future (1998-2016)Edit

In 1998, Conservative Future was launched as the new youth wing following major reforms by William Hague, who was elected as the honorary president of Conservative Future in 2012. By 2006, it was the largest political organisation on British campuses,[12] and the estimated membership, including members on campuses and through constituency associations, may once have totalled 20,000.[13]

On 19 November 2015, the entire executive of the organisation was suspended, and the youth wing taken under direct control by the Conservative Party.[14] The national Conservative Future was eventually disbanded, however Scottish Conservative Future continued to function, as did Harrow Conservative Future which was adopted as a branch by the Harrow East Conservative Association

Young Conservatives (2018-present)Edit

In 2018 following the appointment of Ben Bradley as Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for youth and with a focus on young members, the party announced at its spring forum it was relaunching a youth branch under the original name 'Young Conservatives'.[15]

The structure of Young Conservative branches will be integrated with local Associations and into the wider voluntary party with officers being elected by members of the association. University YC branches will operate independently. The organisation aims to increase youth ownership and engagement in local associations by focusing on activities which are tangible for the success of the party. After the publication of the Chequers Brexit white paper Ben Bradley tendered his resignation[16] as Vice Chairman for youth and was subsequently succeeded by Tom Pursglove.

In popular cultureEdit

"Young Conservatives" is the title of a 1982 song by The Kinks from the album State of Confusion, in which Ray Davies comments on the general swing to the right under Margaret Thatcher.


  1. ^ "Capping welfare and working to control immigration". Archived from the original on 9 June 2016. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  2. ^ Wolfram Nordsieck. "Parties and Elections in Europe".
  3. ^ "Member organisations". International Young Democrat Union. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ The Pickles Papers (1989) ISBN 0 948994 04 5
  8. ^ The Sin
  9. ^ Matthew Lamb Phd Thesis
  10. ^ Telegraph Obituary: David Atkinson
  11. ^ Independent: Sir Fergus Montgomery: Right-wing MP who served as Thatcher's PPS 20 March 2013
  12. ^ Bryony Gordon (4 October 2006). "Forget Tory Boy, Conservatives are now cool". The Daily Telegraph.
  13. ^ Rowenna Davis (6 October 2009). "The restrained children of Cameron". The Guardian.
  14. ^ "18/11/2015, Newsnight - BBC Two". BBC. Retrieved 2016-09-20.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Two Conservative vice chairs resign in protest at Theresa May's Brexit plan". The Independent. Retrieved 2018-07-30.

External linksEdit