Blue rinse

by Henry Farrell on November 15, 2003


The British Conservatives have recently been trying to get more bright young people to “join the party”: It looks as though they’ve got some way to go. It’s no secret that the Conservative party is getting a bit long in the tooth (the average party member is “over 65”:,12295,805968,00.html years old). But “Matthew Turner”: really brings their problems home when he takes a look at the products that advertisers try to flog to Conservatives. Turner provides a complete list of the ads in this month’s issue of _Conservative Heartland_, the official party rag. So what are merchants trying to peddle to the Tories? In consecutive order, it seems to be:

Retirement investment advice
Vitamins ‘for a healthy lifespan’
Savile Row shirts
Medical insurance for the over 50s
Retirement homes on the South coast
Leg ‘relaxa-stool’ supporter
Margaret Thatcher books
‘Back-care’ chairs
‘Easy-bather’ bath aid
Pensioners hearing aid
Branded ‘comfort stretch’ trousers
Reproduction antique gramophone

This is so perfect (especially the comfort stretch trousers, hearing aids and gramophones) that it nearly sounds like a hoax. Apparently it’s not though, and indeed it’s been picked up by _Private Eye_. Found via “Harry’s Place”:



Kieran Healy 11.15.03 at 6:18 am

Leg ‘relaxa-stool’ supporter

I take it this is some kind of foot rest, and not an incontinence aid that you strap inside your trousers.


Nicholas Weininger 11.15.03 at 4:24 pm

This information is, of course, meaningless without a comparison to the other parties. What’s the average age of a Labour or Lib Dem party member? What sorts of products get advertised in their official party magazines?


Stentor 11.15.03 at 5:45 pm

I’m surprised they still make typewriters.


Nasi Lemak 11.15.03 at 6:27 pm

I can’t speak for Labour’s official publications, but once upon a time I was a Lib Dem; as far as I recall the only things advertised in LibDemNews were leaflets on campaigning techniques by Lembit Opik, and holiday home rentals in the Dordogne.

The Guardian’s claim about the average age of Conservatives is unsourced; I assume it’s derived at some level from one of the Seyd and Whiteley surveys of party membership in the 90s, which found the average Conservative to be 62 and the average Labour member to be 48. That was nearly a decade ago though – I haven’t followed this debate much recently so there may be more up-to-date figures.

That phrase “relaxa-stool” is sure uncomfortable-making.


Jason McCullough 11.15.03 at 6:47 pm

An average age of 65? Jesus christ, no wonder the Tories are fucked.


Jon H 11.15.03 at 10:35 pm

I thought that picture was from the Join Me people – It’s not a cult, it’s a collective


Nick 11.16.03 at 12:10 pm

I thought the slogan on their hands said ‘Join U.S.’ at first – given that it’s a Conservative party picture, one wouldn’t be at all surprised.

As for the average age, I looked at the raw figures from a Guardian poll a few months ago and discovered that the median age of Conservative voters was in the 45-54 age group while the median for Labour and Lib Dem voters was in the 35-44 age group. But, that was just one poll and perhaps not a representative sample when broken down into the different parties.


Jeffrey Kramer 11.16.03 at 1:47 pm

I was most surprised by the news that party membership was down to 330,000. Is there any major difference between the U.K. and the U.S. regarding what’s entailed by “party membership”? That is, does it require anything more than checking “Conservatives” on a multiple-choice form?


matthew 11.16.03 at 3:14 pm

Yes, you actually have to stump up money (£15 p.a for the Conservatives) for a start.


harry 11.16.03 at 7:30 pm

The difference is that the British political parties are political parties, who organise themselves, and have, for example, leadership elections in which only their members are allowed to vote. American political parties are not political parties, but strange collections of persons organised by the State. Anecdote time: in my city we have a political party (called Progressive Dane, don’t ask) which is regularly tarred in the press, and by the Democrats (whom it most threatens) as Stalinist because it requires its candidates to refrain from openly supporting opponents of its other candidates. The other parties have no such requirements. Imagine a European political party of any political stripe allowing its candidates to support its opponents.

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