After the Tory bullying scandal which erupted following the death of activist Elliott Johnson, many of those implicated at the time have maintained a low profile: apart from Mark Clarke, who is still protesting his innocence despite the Tories handing him a lifetime ban, Grant “Spiv” Shapps has concentrated on being a back-bench MP, plus the likes of his former chief of staff Paul Abbott have kept their heads down.
Donal Blaney - he never went away
And then there was Donal Blaney. The head man at the Young Britons’ Foundation, widely considered an entryist organisation, and until recently CEO of the Thatcherite pressure group Conservative Way Forward, had claimed he would be spending rather more time with his wife in the USA. The YBF’s last annual bash was canned - postponed, not cancelled, Blaney was at pains to point out - and little was heard from him.
Until now, that is: all those ideas for which the YBF was renowned, and other groups such as the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance were infamous - such was the TPA’s tendency to sleight of hand or even forthright dishonesty - have been picked up by a new group called Young Britons For Liberty, which promotes Free Speech, Tolerance (no laughing at the back, please), and a Free Market. It is, of course, a non-partisan group (allegedly).
Here’s the schtick: “The political climate is dominated by statism, such as that of the regressive left, and the true meaning of liberalism has been lost. The broad church non-partisan Young Britons for Liberty movement promotes the traditional British concept of liberty to young professionals and students. We support the NUScape and #Right2Debate campaigns for free speech on campuses”. But not NewSpeak, of course.
This group promises a “Battle for lower taxes” (like the TPA). It is strongly libertarian. It cites the names of Friedrich Hayek and Margaret Thatcher in reverent tones. And there on its Board of Advisors is Donal Blaney. He is joined in this enterprise by Andrew Allison, a former driving instructor who is now at the far-right Freedom Association, although he was for many years a leading light, and consummate whinger, of the TPA.
And there among the Patrons is MEP and occasional Tory Dan, Dan The Oratory Man. The group’s affiliates include the New Culture Forum, whose advisory committee includes Matthew Elliot, founder of the TPA, Michael “Oiky” Gove, and the serially clueless Tim Montgomerie. Yet this is all “non-partisan”, and it is merely coincidental that it just happens to be an attempt to undermine organisations like the NUS.
What Young Britons For Liberty looks like - although I’m sure Blaney will disagree - is yet another attempt to indoctrinate the young in the name of freedom, choice, liberty, openness, tolerance, and of course looking only across the North Atlantic to the USA, and definitely not at that rotten statist EU. Get them young, fill them full of ideas, train them up, get them into the Tory Party, and move it even further to the right.
It’s a new name, but the same old game. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
[More on this group later]