Tony Baldry and all those jolly good chaps in the Tory Party think that what today’s politicians did at age 13 is fair game. So what they got up to at age 17 must be just as fair game, if not moreso, especially if they did what they did as part of their duties as a member of a party affiliate. Like the Young Conservatives, as they were called in the early 1980s. Whose members included one Harry Phibbs.
And, as Private Eye noted at the time, young Harry was no stranger to controversy: Issue 555 tells “Phibbs, 17, was recently suspended from his mixed comprehensive school in Pimlico for distributing a leaflet with a picture of a used contraceptive sheath and the banner headline ‘sexism is fun’”.
Bit late for a rethink now, Phibbo
It got worse: “[The] Metropolitan Police may wish to interview him in connection with a handbill circulated during the Bermondsey by-election asking voters ‘Which Queen do you support?’ This item ... bore no printer’s imprint – an offence that has been treasonable since the First World War”.
From Private Eye issue 555
Eye 556 told that Phibbs had denied involvement in that handbill, but noted his presence “at a freebie at South Africa House, where he took part in a vote of thanks to the speakers. These were ‘information officers’, whitewashing BOSS and speaking of the need to contain the activities of the coloured population”.
From Private Eye issue 556
Issue 558 informed readers about the activities of those in and around the Federation of Conservative Students (FCS) – an organisation that was later forcibly disbanded – which included other publications that did not have a printer’s mark, such as that calling for jailed ANC leader Nelson Mandela to be hanged. Phibbs, it was observed, numbered these august beings among his cronies.
From Private Eye issue 558
And then it was onwards and upwards, as the Eye told in Issue 566 that “Phibbs has now left the school where he caused so much trouble and plans to attend the LSE, starting next year. In the meantime, he has landed himself the temporary job ... of research assistant to thrusting New Boy Chris Chope MP, formerly privatisation freak on Wandsworth Borough Council”.
From Private Eye issue 566
The article continues “If this relationship proves awkward – and even the sanguine Chope may baulk at Phibbs’ frenzied enthusiasm – the schoolboy has been promised a post as youth organiser for the right-wing Freedom Association”.
All that practice in shit-stirring, along with his networking among those of like mind, must have served Phibbs well, as he is still at it, and still a figure of ridicule, more than thirty years later. And, as Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Runne do not appear to have descended mob-handed on the Eye in their aftermath, one has to conclude that the articles had a significant amount of truth within them.