The Tory Party, although it has used the Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF) for training activists, stresses that it and the YBF are separate organisations. This stance, though, is not helped by the number of Tory MPs (including serving and former ministers), Councillors and hangers-on that have lent their presence to YBF events, and to the group itself, over recent years.
To see this no doubt coincidental convergence, one need go no further than the speakers scheduled for the YBF’s seventh Annual Activist Training Conference next month. Gerald Howarth, who is Minister for International Security Strategy, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, and an MP of 28 years’ standing, is one of those.
So is Nigel Evans, an MP first returned by the electorate of Ribble Valley in 1992, and now a Deputy Speaker of the Commons. These mainstream Tories are following former Defence Secretary Liam Fox, current Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, and former shadow Home Secretary David Davis in lending their support to the YBF, suggesting that it may not be “non-partisan”.
More controversially, those mainstream Tories will share a platform with the likes of Howard Flight, no stranger to trouble: last year he suggested that proposed benefit changes may encourage the poor to “breed” and only withdrew the remark after Young Dave caused him so to do. Flight had previously been de-selected from his seat by Michael Howard following a gaffe on spending plans.
But Flight, despite his occasional looseness of tongue, is still a loyal Tory, which cannot be said for James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, also speaking at the forthcoming YBF event. Del Boy has condemned Cameron and asserted that he is a worse Prime Minister than Sailor Heath. And the level of abuse Del directs at both parts of the Coalition shows little sign of abating.
Even so, Del Boy appears to be the exception that proves the rule: all other speakers thus far declared for next month’s YBF event are serving or former Tory MPs. And the party’s youth wing Conservative Future (CF), of which Donal Blaney was the first national chairman, calls the YBF “one of our partners”. That assertion is made on the Tory Party’s own website.
So the idea that the YBF is “non-partisan”, or that it is in some way not associated with the Tory Party, is a sham: it is avowedly partisan, and works closely with the party. Any attempt by the Tories to distance themselves from the YBF should be seen as what it is: a cheap ploy to deflect criticism in the hope that those critical of the link will be easily fobbed off by denials and reassurances.
And just imagine the press reaction had this been a left leaning Labour party partner.