Young Tories: the tragedy of pretending to be what you’re not | Barbara Ellen

The recent TV show about young Conservatives was by turns aggravating and sad

Several days after it was broadcast, I still find myself still unsettled by the BBC2 Wonderland documentary Young, Bright and on the Right. It was about “Tory Boys” Joe (21, at Oxford) and Chris (19, at Cambridge), both struggling to get a footing in their respective university Conservative associations. Only they weren’t actual Tory Boys, they were Tory Boy wannabes, Tory Boys who couldn’t cut it, Tory Boys who weren’t made of the “right stuff”.

I’m sure there are Labour near-equivalents (I fondly imagine Ed Miliband doing his PPE coursework in Jarrow March jammies), but would they be so stupid as to appear in a documentary as exposing as this? At first, I thought it was just community service for tragic freaks who thought they could rock a bow tie.

Actually, it was sadder. Both the Tory Boy Wannabes (TBWs) were state educated (Joe from a single-parent family) and could only dream of Eton. Both had wardrobes and accents they thought passed for toff, but rather painfully didn’t. Both were so busy scheming for power that it barely seemed to dawn on them that the door had already been locked, quite possibly from birth, and they were definitely on the wrong side of it.

From there, this documentary was about their increasingly desperate efforts to gain access to the inner sanctum, where all their “sins” (Joe’s dad sent to prison; coming from Yorkshire and Kettering) would be instantly cleansed.

I’ve often thought that this must be the TBW dream – a kind of Bullingdon baptism, a sense of being “born again” into wealth and privilege. But how was this ever going to happen for these delusional misfits, who tried too freaking hard! You see how worked up I’m getting? The pathos swirling around these TBWs is killing me.

For narrow-minded, sub-tribal people like myself (I try), Tories can be many things – nasty, unnerving, sometimes interesting or entertaining, but I draw the line at vulnerable. I don’t want to deal with the question: “What’s sadder – Tory Boys or Tory Boy Wannabes”?

I resent worrying about Chris, who wished he’d gone to public school with “like-minded people” (I smell bullying); or Joe, who cried when he spoke of concealing his background. Then there were their lovely families – every member of them worth so much more than the floppy-fringed Oxbridge plums their sons were trying so hard to impress and infiltrate.

In fact, in both cases, their backgrounds looked far more interesting than the unedifying blur of plotting and cringeing they’d made of life at university. Which perhaps is the point.

If only they’d realised it, Joe and Chris were already better than the people they were so desperately trying to be. Both had done brilliantly, coming from state school to Oxbridge. Both had backgrounds, especially Joe’s, that proved they could survive in the real world. The accents they were so busy trying to acquire were the same ones their old Etonian contemporaries would be hastily toning down if they got anywhere near a political career.

In short, the triumph of Joe and Chris was that they were not your cookie-cutter (entitled, blinkered) Tory Boys; their tragedy was that they so desperately wanted to be. Was this immaturity or something else?

Happily, by the end, both young men seemed to be wising up. However, perhaps the shadowlands of political power are full of people who never do. Not the alphas (the strutters and bullies). Rather, these funny little stale air pockets full of the nearly powerful. Political career-wannabes who spend every wretched waking hour, plotting and scheming – all just to fit in and look as though as they belong.

It could be that this documentary slapped Joe and Chris awake, made them realise that, even before they arrived at university, they were worth more than the masks they’d donned. If only everybody in politics were so fortunate.

Even on a bad hair day, Naomi Campbell can weave her magic

Photographs of Naomi Campbell’s receding hairline have emerged. Said to be caused by weaves and hair extensions, the condition is known as traction alopecia. It serves as a cautionary tale to those who choose to walk around with what is often somebody else’s hair squatting on their head. Bizarre. If they wouldn’t wear another woman’s nail clippings, why would they wear their hair?

Back to Naomi. The pictures were vicious but, simultaneously, an exercise in what we might call failed Schadenfraude. Sure, the scalp didn’t look great.

However, she still has the face and body that would make many women half her age shake fists at the gods and weep scalding, wistful tears.

All of which explains why the Schadenfraude misfired. Women aren’t going to gloat at a bad hair day when the rest of her looks like that. As in, someone in the skimpiest of bikinis, sans make up, who still manages to resemble a modern Aphrodite.

Perhaps it’s seasonal. Everywhere, women are starving, waxing and spraying themselves to ensure they aren’t mistaken for the Gruffalo on the beach. Yet they’re supposed to pause in all this to sneer at a natural beauty such as La Campbell. Unlikely.

Go Naomi. Most of us would seriously consider going the full Duncan Goodhew in return for looking like you.

We’d be sure of a gold in the texting Olympics

The LG sponsored US National Texting Competitioncorrect has reached its sixth year. From spelling bees to texting bees – how far we’ve come. Actually, watching a clip of this year’s event at Times Square, there was something terribly sweet about it. The competitors stood onstage texting with their “game faces” on, as if they were chess grandmasters or professional poker players.

The winner was 17-year-old Austin Weirschke from Wisconsin who will be putting his $50,000 win into his college fund. Nice thumb-work, Austin.

However, questions need to be asked. Was this texting of the old-school predictive variety where you’d press the same buttons, again and again, and it took about four days to write: “I’m too old for this – kill me now with a large brick”? Or were the competitors using the more manageable QWERTY keyboard models? It turns out to be the latter (which is cheating, guys), but let’s not spoil the moment.

No one could deny that the contestants were put through their paces with such challenges as high-speed texting, blindfold texting, hands-behind-back texting and, in what may have been a nod to the Ivy League universities, translation from text-speak and back again.

Watching Weirschke hammering away, it wasn’t exactly Jessica Ennis flying through the finishing line in the heptathlon, but an achievement is an achievement.

Could texting be an Olympic event? There’s no valid reason why activities such as throwing bits of sharpened wood (javelin) or lumps of iron (shot put) should be elevated above the championship texters, who gave their QWERTY all in Times Square. No good reason except it would make trained athletes look like total idiots, and that’s curling’s job.

Another incentive for introducing texting to the Olympics is that, with British kids having been in permanent training since mobile phones were invented, we would be world-class. We would always be assured of winning at least one gold without even trying. We wouldn’t even have to have selections – just put the latest lot from Big Brother into naff tracksuits and send them in.

The government could continue sneakily selling off school playing fields, and the kids could sit in gyms text training instead.

It’s all making sense. The other countries might as well give up now. The Brits are coming – don’t tell me that we’re not world leaders in removing vowels. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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