14 April 2011

Hammersmith & Fulham Tories' links with Young Britons' "madrasah"

An unsettling organisation called the Young Britons' Foundation (YBF), in which Hammersmith & Fulham Conservatives play a starring role, has been expertly probed by local blogger Guy Debord's Cat. Long-standing HFConwatch readers may remember we first aired our concerns about YBF in March 2010, noting that its leader, former H&F councillor Donal Blaney, had called the NHS Britain's "biggest waste of money", claimed global warming was a "scam" and suggested that water-boarding prisoners could be justified.

According to its own website, YBF "identifies, trains, mentors and places philosophically sound [sic] activists in politics, academia and the media". After giving them "policy and skills training at our workshops", YBF "places" [sic] these people in "full-time jobs and work experience in the City, the professions, business, the media, academia and politics".

Right-wing commentators have approvingly called the organisation a Tory “madrasah”, a term mostly used (or abused) to describe schools for radical, ideological fundamentalists. In the same way, perhaps, that the Militant tendency was a left-wing madrasah in the 1980s, until the Labour Party under Neil Kinnock dealt with them.

YBF's links with the H&F Tories run deep. 

Cllr Greg Smith, H&F's cabinet member for residents services, is YBF's director of campaigns. He co-founded YBF in 2003 with Donal Blaney, an H&F councillor for Eel Brook Common from 1998-2002. He also ran Greg Hands's campaign to become MP for Fulham in 2005 and then set up Hands's office.

Cllr Mark Loveday, H&F's Chief Whip and cabinet member for strategy, is on YBF's advisory board.

Greg Hands MP sits on YBF's parliamentary council. Hands was Donal Blaney's fellow councillor in Eel Brook Common. In 2007/08, he claimed £7,500 in parliamentary expenses for "consultancy" payments to Greg Smith.

Guy Debord's Cat notes the similarities with the troublesome, now defunct Federation of Conservative Students (FCS), and another blogger wonders to what extent "1980s FCS-types" have been "mentoring" the YBS. Cllr Harry Phibbs, H&F's cabinet member for community engagement, is well-known for his starring role in the FCS, until the organisation was denounced by that notorious left-winger Norman Tebbit.

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