Going to the Conservative Future Christmas party was not my idea of a good night out. But it did offer a sobering glimpse of this country's future leaders
“What annoys me,” says a toff, “is your perception that the Conservative party is full of toffs. I mean, do I look like a toff?” he asks, apparently rhetorically. He looks like a toff.
This isn’t how I normally spend my Saturday nights: deep in the trenches of class war, spilled champagne underfoot, the bloody theatre of conflict that is Piccadilly Circus raging heedlessly outside. In a fit of misguided journalistic curiosity, I went undercover to the Conservative Future Christmas party in early December. I wanted to see the next generation of Tory leaders do their pre-emptive general election victory dance. And I got to see it. Be careful what you wish for.
The toff in question wears a thick blond mane, an open-necked striped shirt and a ruddy burn-tan straight off the slopes. He is addressing his incredulity not to me, but a cheery young Asian guy—normally a Lib Dem, he said—who had joined the hooray of aspirant Conservative MPs smoking outside The Warwick to talk politics.
The group proceed to argue about whether Michael Howard or William Hague was the more tragic loss to the party leadership; both massively underrated, they say. “But don’t you like David Cameron as leader?” the rogue Lib Dem asks. “Don’t get me wrong, Cameron is… necessary. But George Osborne: now he’s the bloody man,” one of them replies, supported by a cascade of floppy-haired nods.
When I arrive at The Warwick at 11pm the party is already dense with shirts tucked high at the waist, and the bar’s low-lit basement a sea of tilted wine glasses. Louis from Bristol stumbles towards me, clinging on to an empty bottle of red wine like his life depends on it. He doesn’t look a day over 18, but he knows he’s had more than enough of Labour, he splutters, exasperated. “If we don’t win this time!” he barks in my ear, “if Kingswood doesn’t go blue! Well…” he’s too horrified to finish the thought, and instead pulls out his Blackberry and types “IT’S TIME TO GO BLUE” for me in capitals.
The conversation stalls as the crowded dancefloor expands, annexing our little corner. A rugby-necked ranine steps up to the raised seating area above the rabble, having apparently decided his role is to lead them in party-political prayer. Beers and arms are held aloft. Two girls stranded somewhere in this sea of white men in blazers chant “New leader!” for what feels like an eternity over a pop soundtrack, and everyone puts their beers in, musketeer style. This devolves into a refrain of “Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi!”—which may not be a specific Tory policy initiative, but is delivered no less enthusiastically. This is all leading up to the sermon’s main event: a piece of hip-hop style call-and-response:
“I say ‘Conservative,’ you say ‘win’… Conservative!” “Win!” “Conservative!” “Win!”
Arms are round shoulders now, the couple trying to tango to Lady Gaga realise the hopelessness of their task and give up, and the chanting continues. It’s time for a break. Outside, David from Kensington and Chelsea, a calm, cerebral young turk in grey polo-neck, jeans and hiking trainers, is explaining the difference between Italian corruption and British sleaze to two Italian tourists, Luca and Joe. “So you’re all about to get elected in May then?” asks Luca.
“Well, not yet, but it’s called Conservative Future for a reason: we’re going to be in power in ten years!” says David, letting himself get momentarily carried away. “We don’t always say what the leadership wants us to, but that’s why we’re technically a separate organisation. We’re not personally going to be in power just yet. But give it ten years…”
Meanwhile, to my left, one young Conservative is explaining his scepticism about joining the party to two CF members. “I vote Tory—you know I vote Tory. I’m just not a Tory member. I don’t like parties.” He pauses. “Well, I like these kinds of parties obviously! God… can you imagine what a Labour version of this would be like?”
“Well,” his friend replies, “there’d be a lot more ethnic minorities for one thing.” “Oh really?” the other replies. “I thought the Labour party was trying to make itself seem more respectable!” They laugh awkwardly, seemingly aware that even as casual racism, it doesn’t really work.
I boggle slightly and head back inside. It’s 2am, and the surly Russian bouncer has stopped checking whether people have tickets for the CF party, meaning some civilians from the bar upstairs have filtered down to join watch the young Tories at play. A group of lads in Hoxton fins and sportswear stand to one side of the dancefloor and marvel, pint glass in one hand, the other defensively pocketed, as rotund young men strapped in by leather belts dance like their fathers to “Hey Ya.” Their hips swivel arrhythmically, fingers determinedly pointing at indeterminate parts of the ceiling.
For a political party that professes itself horrified that the pre-election debate is being framed in class terms, the young Tories seem remarkably fixated on the issue. “Sorry, did you just say I was a commoner? Fuck off and die!”—is the punch-line to one bit of drunken joshing between friends.
As I shape to leave, I hover for one last cigarette. Three new acquaintances are making idle smalltalk. “Tim is such a common name…” one of the smokers is saying. He checks himself, not wanting to offend the Tim in question: “sorry, not, you know, common… I mean ‘popular’.”
“Yah but your surname is Jenkins,” his friend says through a mouthful of teeth. “That’s such a butler’s name!”
“Jenkiiiiiiins!!” They all boom happily at once, summoning an imaginary servant and the ghost of Conservative past at the same time. The declamation falls away into the West End night, nullified by the bright lights of nearby Piccadilly Circus.
“Where’s Bollinger?” someone wonders, idly.
“Bollie? She’s left I think.”
SOURCE. Yes, this is obviously a few months old, but I think it gives a handy view inside 'Conservative Future', often deemed to be the progressive, youthful side of conservative politics in this country. I think it's pretty clear that it's not, from any number of incidents other than this report. One could make a case that these kinds of unvarnished views are the consequence of youth, but actually I think these views are at the heart of the Conservative party -- the assurance that they should be in power, that the old hierarchies are still in operation, merely that they have to learn to speak a new language of lipservice to equality and reform in order to get at the power that's so rightfully theirs.
Also, this deserves highlighting:
-God… can you imagine what a Labour version of this would be like?
-Well, there’d be a lot more ethnic minorities for one thing.
-Oh really? I thought the Labour party was trying to make itself seem more respectable!