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. The organisation shares the same values and policies as its parent political party with branches being an integrated part of local associations. College and university branches are not included, but run independently.[7]

Young Conservatives
Founded16 March 2018
Preceded byConservative Future
Headquarters4 Matthew Parker Street, London SW1A
Membership 15,000 members [1]
Economic liberalism[3]
British unionism[4]
Mother partyConservative Party
International affiliationInternational Young Democrat Union[5]
European affiliationEuropean Young Conservatives[6]
WebsiteYoung Conservatives

YC is both social and political, aiming to bring together young conservatives and encouraging young people to get involved in campaigning.[8]


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)

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 at the "YCs" dances, rambles, and charity events in the 1950s. 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 Pickles' chairmanship.[citation needed]

... 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".[9]

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.' [10]

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."[11] 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. In the BBC series Harry Enfield and Chums, Harry Enfield played a character called 'Tory Boy', an arrogant and reactionary right-wing Young Conservative.

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.[12]

Past Chairmen

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, 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 was 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 YCs 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.[13][14]

  • Sir William van Straubenzee MP, National Chairman 1951/53
  • Geoffrey Finsberg MP, National Chairman 1953/57
  • Fergus Montgomery MP, 1957/58
  • Peter Walker MP, National Chairman 1958/60
  • Sir Andrew Bowden National Chairman 1960/61
  • Terence Wray, National Chairman 1960/63
  • Nick Scott MP, National Chairman 1963/64
  • Alan Haselhurst MP, National Chairman 1964/66
  • David Atkinson MP, National Chairman 1970/1
  • John Watson MP, National Chairman 1971/72
  • David Hunt, now Baron Hunt of Wirral, MP, 1976-97 National Chairman 1972/73
  • Clive Landa, National Chairman 1974/75
  • Tony Kerpel, 1975/76
  • Michael Jack MP, 1987-2010 National Chairman 1977
  • Chris Gent, National Chairman 1977/79. Chairman of GlaxoSmithKline
  • Bob Hughes, National Chairman 1979/80, former MP for Harrow
  • Eric Pickles MP, National Chairman 1980/81
  • Iain Picton, National Chairman 1981/82
  • Phil Pedley, National Chairman 1982/84
  • John Guthrie, National Chairman 1984/85
  • Richard Fuller MP, National Chairman 1985/87
  • Nick Robinson, National Chairman 1987/88, later BBC political editor
  • Martin Woodruffe, National Chairman 1988/89 (last 'moderate' candidate)
  • Andrew Tinney, first 'Right-wing Slate' National Chairman, 1989/91 Chief Operating Officer Barclays Wealth (Resigned)
  • Murdo Fraser MSP, National Chairman 1991/92
  • Adrian McLellan, National Chairman 1992/93
  • Andrew Rosindell MP, National Chairman in 1993-94
  • Adrian Lee, National Chairman 1994-1995
  • Cllr Paul Clarke (Andersen), National Chairman 1995-1996

Past Vice Chairmen

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.

Conservative Future (1998–2016)

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,[15] and the estimated membership, including members on campuses and through constituency associations, may once have totalled 20,000.[16]

On 19 November 2015, the entire executive of the organisation was suspended, and the youth wing taken under direct control by the Conservative Party.[17] The national Conservative Future was eventually disbanded, however Scottish Conservative Future continued to function.

Young Conservatives (2018–present)

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'.[18]

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.[when?] 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[19] as Vice Chairman for youth and was subsequently succeeded by Tom Pursglove. Pursglove was replaced by Nigel Huddleston in February 2019, and Pursglove was replaced by Andrew Bowie in July of 2019 after Boris Johnson took office.[20]

In popular culture

"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.


  2. "Capping welfare and working to control immigration". Archived from the original on 9 June 2016. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  3. Wolfram Nordsieck. "Parties and Elections in Europe".
  6. "Members". European Young Conservatives. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
  7. "It's not enough for the Young Conservatives to be worthy – they must be fun". Conservative Home. 2018-03-17. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  8. The Pickles Papers (1989) ISBN 0 948994 04 5
  9. torypartyarchives. "The Sin". Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  10. "Matthew Lamb Phd Thesis" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  11. "Tories ditch Young Conservatives". BBC News. 24 January 2019. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  12. "Obituary: David Atkinson". Daily Telegraph. 2012-02-12. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  13. "Sir Fergus Montgomery: Right-wing MP who served as Thatcher's PPS 20 March 2013". Independent. 2013-03-20. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  14. Bryony Gordon (4 October 2006). "Forget Tory Boy, Conservatives are now cool". The Daily Telegraph.
  15. Rowenna Davis (6 October 2009). "The restrained children of Cameron". The Guardian.
  16. "18/11/2015, Newsnight - BBC Two". BBC. Retrieved 2016-09-20.
  17. Yorke, Harry (16 March 2018). "Conservative youth wing relaunched in bid to win back millennials from Labour". The Telegraph.
  18. "Two Conservative vice chairs resign in protest at Theresa May's Brexit plan". The Independent. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  19. Cowburn, Ashley (12 February 2019). "Conservatives appoint 48-year-old MP as youth spokesman". The Independent. Retrieved 26 November 2019.