Eric Pickles distances Tory party from rightwing training organisation
Conservative chairman says his party does not agree with the views of the Young Britons' Foundation, whose officials have described NHS as 'the biggest waste of money in the UK'
The Conservative chairman, Eric Pickles, last night appeared to disown the leadership of the Young Britons' Foundation, a rightwing training organisation for young Conservatives whose officials have described the NHS as "the biggest waste of money in the UK" and suggested the waterboarding of prisoners can be justified.
Pickles spoke last week at a YBF rally at the House of Commons and the group is working with Conservative Future, the party's official youth wing, on pre-election training of young Tory activists. But yesterday that relationship came under serious strain.
"We don't agree with these views," a spokesman for Pickles said in a brief statement. "The YBF organisation is independent of the Conservative party."
The move follows revelations in the Guardian at the weekend that the YBF's chief executive, Donal Blaney, has taken trainees to firing ranges as part of their courses and called for police to shoot down environmental protesters who trespass.
Blaney has referred to the YBF as "a Conservative madrasa". In recent years, the organisation has enjoyed widespread support from members of the shadow cabinet, including Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, and Michael Gove, the shadow education secretary, both of whom have spoken at its gatherings. The YBF has also helped train several prospective parliamentary candidates.
Today, campaigners for tighter gun control wrote to David Cameron demanding a reassurance that a Tory government would not liberalise firearm controls.
Yesterday, a Conservative party organiser quit the party after Blaney's views were exposed.
James Cutts, who acts as spokesman for the east Midlands division of Conservative Future, said he was "horrified" at the revelations.
"Who needs to be trained by these people?" said Cutts. "Their position on the NHS is against everything David Cameron has been saying. I also take exception to CCHQ [Conservative campaign headquarters]'s denial that we are not paying YBF for services when we are farming out our media training to them for hundreds of pounds at a time."
Cutts said that, as an organiser for Conservative Future's East Midlands region, he came under pressure from the national organisation to ensure there were sufficient paying customers for the YBF courses.
A spokesman for the Conservative party said people attended YBF courses of their own volition and they were not financially supported by the party.
Conservative central office would not comment on whether the planned YBF training courses being promoted by Conservative Future will go ahead in the light of the revelations.
"I have nothing else to add," said Pickles's spokesman.
The Conservative Future courses are advertised as "bought to you by: Young Britons' Foundation" and include sessions on "handling negative information".