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Proper Gander: Tory Teenagers

Proper Gander

Leave a Petri dish in Oxford or Cambridge and chances are it will spawn a few young Conservatives along with other bacteria. The universities there have always been infected with teenage Tories, and two of these irritating germs featured on Young, Bright and On the Right (BBC2). Cameras followed them both as they tried to gain influence in their respective Oxbridge University Conservative Associations – CUCA and OUCA.

Joe Cooke hangs portraits of Thatcher and Churchill on his bedroom wall, where other teenagers might have posters from Nuts magazine. Nineteen-year-old Chris Monk describes himself as “a wild firebrand of the right”. Alas, he’s too ‘wild’ to ingratiate himself among CUCA, with his flailing arms, gawky demeanour and strange obsession with cheese and port. The most striking thing about each of them is their voice. Chris speaks in a whiny gargle, like Boris Johnson with a helium balloon. Joe’s decided to dilute his Yorkshire accent to fit in better with his posh, plummy peers.

Both want to start playing among the infighting and intrigue they find in their Conservative Associations. In their minds, they’re practising for when they’re in Parliament. In reality, they’re behaving like they’re in a sixth-form drama production of Yes, Minister. The game turns more serious when Joe gets revenge on those who mocked his real accent. He goes to the papers with evidence that OUCA sang racist and anti-Semitic songs at their meetings. He says he’s now seen through their “warped reality”.

Young, Bright and On the Right reveals that both Joe and Chris have grown up feeling isolated, and this led them to seek acceptance in the Conservative Party, of all places. Why there, rather than anywhere normal people go? Perhaps feeling some resentment towards their peers has contributed to their joining an organisation famed for trampling on people. It’s as if Conservatism is a symptom of their teen angst. Thankfully, it’s a phase both Joe and Chris should grow out of. By the end of the programme, they’ve both abandoned their political aspirations. Hopefully, in years to come they’ll be suitably embarrassed about being young, bright and full of shite.