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Their days were numbered: Members of the Young Conservatives promote a recruiting rally on the Whitechapel Road in 1961

All who were there agreed that the first annual fashion show of the South Hammersmith branch of the Young Conservatives had been a triumph. Although the February day in 1964 had dawned cold and foggy, the damp air did not deter the local MP William Compton Carr nor his wife Mrs Compton Carr from attending. The Reverend Sullivan was also in the audience at the Constitutional Hall.

Young Conservative member Kenneth Maxfield wrote in that month's newsletter of the show's "four delightful, high-stepping young ladies, Alison, Carol, Hillary and Philippa" who sashayed down the catwalk in a "blaze of colours". He confessed that he had felt quite "dazed" by the display.

After the high glamour of the show (dresses kindly loaned by the House of Dorville) cups of tea were served at the back of the hall and "the most delicious scones" freshly baked by the redoubtable Beryl.

Such were the joys of the Young Conservatives (YCs) in their heyday. A dizzying round of fund-raising fashion parades, quiz nights, jumble sales, carol singing, boat trips and balls. Today, it seems terribly old-fashioned; a Salad Days idyll of wholesome pursuits and earnest door-to-door canvassing on behalf of local MPs with double-barrelled surnames. 

Well-behaved they may have been but at their height the Young Conservatives were the largest voluntary political youth movement in the free world with the power to influence  if not decide — the outcome of general elections.

In 1951 it was roundly agreed that it was the YCs "wot won it". After six years in opposition, Churchill was returned to Downing Street. He could not have done it without the reforming zeal of Lord Woolton, the former food minister and now party chairman, who understood that if the party was to have a future, it must attract younger voters.

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April 29th, 2013
1:04 PM
What an entertaining read. Lots of juicy research to back it up too. I loved the quote about the unsuitability of working class girls such as Twiggy to be proper models... that was a deb's prerogative! There's a whole TV documentary beneath the surface of this article. Let's hope someone makes it!

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