Tories may curb YC leadership

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The Independent Online
THE CONSERVATIVE Party is considering suspending the national organisation of the Young Conservatives. Its continuing right-wing rowdyism yesterday provided a further embarrassment to the leadership.

At its annual conference in Southend, Essex, the party's youth wing rejected the Government's policy on Europe and gave a rapturous standing ovation to a branch chairman as he ripped up a copy of the Maastricht treaty.

Sir Teddy Taylor, a fervent opponent of European union and a Southend MP, was cheered to the rostrum to make an impromptu speech. Quoting Bob Marley, he told the YCs to stand up for their rights. 'Please remember the freedom and liberty of the people of Britain do not belong to any politician,' he said.

John MacGregor, Secretary of State for Transport, whose closing address as YC President was delayed by the antics, described the anti-European rhetoric as 'unfortunate'. But behind the scenes at Conservative Central Office moves are under way to bring the YCs to heel.

Six years ago the Federation of Conservative Students was closed down after its right-wing behaviour became too much even for Lord Tebbit, the party chairman at the time. Disciplining the YCs will not be so extreme and will focus on the national organisation, not local branches, many of which are thought to be doing a good job for the party.

A party insider says Sir Basil Feldman, chairman of the Conservative National Union, the voluntary wing of the party, is considering suspending the activities of the national YCs while their structure is overhauled. There will probably not be a YC conference next year, although that could be presented as a cost-saving measure.

Membership has fallen dramatically since the 1950s, when it was put at about 250,000. But then it was more a dating agency than politically active: Mr MacGregor met his wife through the YCs. The moderates claim there are 4,327 YC members registered with Central Office. Andrew Rosindell, the incoming YC chairman, said there were between 7,000 and 10,000.

Barely 100 people attended yesterday's debate on industry policy. Any mention of Brussels, Sir Leon Brittan, Labour politicians or Michael Heseltine drew hisses - so too did votes for women - while any mention of Baroness Thatcher or Lord Tebbit drew loud applause and foot-stamping.

Rearranging chairs, page 17

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