Cambo in Cornwall (egged!)

Election 2010: Guffwatch!

Cambo is at his best, you might say, when surrounded by not-wildly-interested-looking students at a college in Cornwall (one of whom then egged him). He is Extremely Upbeat. He couldn't be less interested in the polls (ha ha). I've seen them go up and down, he says. I've been ten points ahead, ten points behind. What I really care about is the poll on 6 May, he sweatily grins.

I like the idea of Cambo swatting new polls away with a careless flick, glass of Pimms in one hand and the new Ian McEwan in the other. "I don't give a monkeys, Andy, " he might say, as Coulson gnashes his teeth.

Back to reality, and Cambo took a lot of entirely unscripted, spontaneous and not-planted-by-a-Tory-party-official questions from the Cornwall lot, including things like, "How is Labour rubbish?" and "How are you going to make everything brilliant?" (minor translations).

Guff emerged along the way, as it will. I particularly liked the subtle rebranding that has been taking place. "How do you get real change?" Cambo demanded of his audience, vote Tory being the expected reply. You've got to pity the guy: how do you differentiate yourself from those darn interfering interlopers, the Lib Dems, who nicked the "change" line. I know, thinks Cambo! We'll offer "real change"! Not fake, Clegg-shaped change which has been knocked off a production line in a Chinese factory (ooh, China, that'll scare them). So there we have it. If you want change, vote Lib Dem. If you want REAL change, it's Cambo all the way.

There's something else Cambo does a lot. Numbers. No, not the economy, not jobs, not taxes. More like, the number of times he's been to Afghanistan (four). The number of times he's met the Israeli prime minister (four or five). The number of times he's met the president of the Palestinian National Authority (many, many). There he is, counting away. Look at me! Look how many times I do things!

Number of times Cambo's been egged on the campaign trail. Just the once so far.


Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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After the “Tatler Tory” bullying scandal, we must ask: what is the point of party youth wings?

A zealous desire for ideological purity, the influence of TV shows like House of Cards and a gossip mill ever-hungry for content means that the youth wings of political parties can be extremely toxic places.

If you wander around Westminster these days, it feels like you’re stepping into a particularly well-informed crèche. Everyone looks about 13; no one has ever had a job outside the party they are working for. Most of them are working for an absolute pittance, affordable only because Mummy and Daddy are happy to indulge junior’s political ambitions.

It’s this weird world of parliament being dominated by under 25s that means the Tory youth wing bullying scandal is more than just a tragic tale. If you haven’t followed it, it’s one of the most depressing stories I’ve ever read; a tale of thirty-something, emotionally-stunted nonentities throwing their weight around at kids – and a promising, bright young man has died as a result of it.

One of the most depressing things was that the stakes were so incredibly low. People inside RoadTrip 2015 (the campaigning organisation at the centre of the scandal) cultivated the idea that they were powerbrokers, that jumping on a RoadTrip bus was a vital precondition to getting a job at central office and eventually a safe seat, yet the truth was nothing of the sort.

While it’s an extreme example, I’m sure it happens in every political party all around the world – I’ve certainly seen similar spectacles in both the campus wings of the Democrats and Republicans in the US, and if Twitter is anything to go by, young Labour supporters are currently locked in a brutal battle over who is loyal to the party, and who is a crypto-Blairite who can “fuck off and join the Tories”. 

If you spend much time around these young politicians, you’ll often hear truly outrageous views, expressed with all the absolute certainty of someone who knows nothing and wants to show off how ideologically pure they are. This vein of idiocy is exactly where nightmarish incidents like the notorious “Hang Mandela” T-shirts of the 1980s come from.

When these views have the backing of an official party organisation, it becomes easy for them to become an embarrassment. Even though the shameful Mandela episode was 30 years ago and perpetrated by a tiny splinter group, it’s still waved as a bloody shirt at Tory candidates even now.

There’s also a level of weirdness and unreality around people who get obsessed with politics at about 16, where they start to view everything through an ideological lens. I remember going to a young LGBT Republican film screening of Billy Elliot, which began with an introduction about how the film was a tribute to Reagan and Thatcher’s economics, because without the mines closing, young gay men would never found themselves through dance. Well, I suppose it’s one interpretation, but it’s not what I took away from the film.

The inexperience of youth also leads to people in politics making decisions based on things they’ve watched on TV, rather than any life experience. Ask any young politician their favourite TV show, and I guarantee they’ll come back with House of Cards or The Thick of It. Like young traders who are obsessed with Wolf of Wall Street, they don’t see that all the characters in these shows are horrific grotesques, and the tactics of these shows get deployed in real life – especially when you stir in a healthy dose of immature high school social climbing.

In this democratised world of everyone having the ear of the political gossip sites that can make or break reputations, some get their taste for mudslinging early. I was shocked when a young Tory staffer told me “it’s always so upsetting when you find out it’s one of your friends who has briefed against you”. 

Anecdotes aside, the fact that the youth wings of our political parties are overrun with oddballs genuinely worries me. The RoadTrip scandal shows us where this brutal, bitchy cannibalistic atmosphere ends up.

Willard Foxton is a card-carrying Tory, and in his spare time a freelance television producer, who makes current affairs films for the BBC and Channel 4. Find him on Twitter as @WillardFoxton.