Voices of protest: Where are they now?

Although all three major parties claim to be recruiting heavily among young voters the truth is that youth wings in British politics have often been the source of discomfort.

The Young Conservatives

The YCs are now part of a young Tory umbrella which claims a total membership of nearly 20,000. Founded in 1946, the YCs have seen membership dwindle to just 7,500 from a peak of 500,000. Conservative Students, which has 10,000 supporters, took over from the infamous Federation of Conservative Students, closed down in 1986. The FCS became embarrassing to Central Office with right-wing students making outrageous statements including calling for the hanging of Nelson Mandela.

Young Labour

Has the slogan "Social justice and a social life" and claims a membership of 30,000, the biggest youth wing of any political party in Europe. Set up in 1993 it benefits from association with Labour's showbiz supporters like Steve Coogan, the comedian.

Has so far avoided the infiltration of the hard left which has led to the demise of many previous Labour youth organisations. Labour Students has 6,000 members.

The Young Liberal Democrats

Grew out of the Young Liberals, which had a reputation for embarrassing the mainstream party in the 1960s and 1970s with its radical agenda. The Lib-Dems claim the current youth wing is more integrated. Recent party conferences have featured young Liberal Democrat calls for the abolition of the monarchy and the lowering of the age of consent for gay sex to 16. Current membership is around 5,000.

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