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Why Jeremy’s youth manifesto – written by young members – can help us win back a generation of voters

corbyn logoThis evening will see the launch of Jeremy Corbyn’s Vision For Britain 2020 – a bold manifesto to reverse the long march backwards faced by Britain’s youth. Successive British governments have viewed the young as an easy target when confronted with difficult Treasury balance sheets or the lobbyists of big business. New Labour’s best achievement, the National Minimum Wage, is still troubled by its lower rates for under-21s. The standard rate of jobseekers’ allowance is £73.10 per week – but under-25s are entitled to just £57.90. And as George Osborne prepares to axe housing benefit for the young in a bid to make them “earn or learn”, his much-feted “living wage” will only apply to those 25 or older.

To put young people at the centre of British politics, and to ensure Labour has a youth manifesto that truly makes a difference, Jeremy has asked NUS Vice-President Shelly Asquith and myself to draft a youth manifesto, in cooperation with Young Labour members from across the country.

Jeremy will commit to reinstating the Education Maintenance Allowance – the grant to sixth-formers from lower-income families – if Labour is elected under his leadership, along with equalising benefits for young people and calling for a statutory living wage for all. He has already pledged to abolish tuition fees and regulate rents – which are not, after all, lower for the young. It’s a far cry from Labour’s official youth manifesto from May’s election – which pledged to cut off unemployment benefit for under-21s and replace it with a “youth training allowance” means-tested on parents’ incomes. Earn or learn, you might say.

Miliband’s youth manifesto had better pledges elsewhere – but nothing particularly radical. A proposal from 2011 to cut tuition fees to £6,000 was hastily re-hashed. There were guaranteed jobs for the unemployed. What was more worrying, though, was that the process completely ignored the members of Young Labour, which had a set of policies ready.

So  Corbyn’s pledge to give young members back some of their autonomy is particularly exciting. Young Labour currently has next to nothing in the way of its own resources. Its running is dependent on a lay committee of young people, many of whom work or study full time, and a single member of party staff – appointed by high command. The Vision for Britain 2020 includes provisions for Young Labour to have its own “fully funded youth officers”, elected by and/or accountable to the membership. The Corbyn campaign will also pledge to allow young members to “make their own policy and run their own campaigns”, which would bring it in line with the youth wings of other socialist parties in Europe. Some of the most successful of these organisations have their own staff and youth manifestos of their own at election time. It is up to candidates themselves if they sign up to these policies – and if they get the campaigning resources of the organisation.

Thousands of young people have signed up to Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign because they are inspired by his vision for a fairer society. Since the election, many have signed up as members of Young Labour for the same reason. They want to be involved in a vibrant organisation that isn’t afraid of it’s own shadow – and not simply be cheerleaders for MPs. We can’t get away from the fact that Labour lost a considerable amount of youth support as the last general election approached. Labour’s considerable youth lead for the first few years of Miliband’s leadership had all but disintegrated in the last few polls – where Labour was neck and neck with the Tories. Any party that wants to not only win the support of those young people who engage in politics, but attract those who don’t to go out and vote, could surely do worse by letting young people themselves lead the way. Young members are ready to win back young voters – and Jeremy Corbyn should be applauded for recognising this.

James Elliott is youth policy adviser to the Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader campaign. 

7 Comments

  1. Billericaydickie says:

    Today’s London Evening Standard has Corbyn supporting the Rev Steven Sizer a well known anti semite who has been reprimanded by his own church for his hate filled sermons.

    1. James Martin says:

      Getting desperate aren’t they! But your language is interesting. ‘A well known anti semite’. Really? So well known in fact that when Corbyn wrote in his support of Sizer in 2012 (yes, 2012, although the Mail and Standard seem to think it was the other day the way they write) this was at the same time as other letters of support for Sizer by at least one Rabbi and the chair of the Jewish Post (Rev Sizer had written a number or articles attacking Christian Zionist neo-cons, which upset them hence him being under attack). Some anti-semite that gets support from the Jewish Post eh! Three whole years later Sizer seems to have got into trouble by having a link to a 9/11 conspiracy site on his blog, which got no support whatsoever from Corbyn, but of course the Mail and Standard (and yourself) are happy to use that well worn tactic of liars and conflate two separate events into a single whole.

      1. gerry says:

        James – fair points: Jeremy Corbyn is NOT anti Semitic and has a brilliant record fighting apartheid, racism, and for gay rights. He has a good record in promoting women’s equality. The main negatives about him on all these issues are the same as for many on his wing of the Left: his close-ness to real, current, actual Islamic extremists – not just the oft-named Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Raed Salah , Hezbollah, the Iranian regime, but also domestic reactionary clerical fascists like those in his Stop the War Coalition, Islamic Forum of Europe, FOSIS, Cage et el. Those of us who know that any alliance between socialists and Islamists is immoral, self defeating and a betrayal of everything Left people are supposed to hold dear..shudder at his willingness to ally with reactionaries in religious clothing. He may get my vote for leader, but yes I am deeply concerned by his record on Islamic extremism.

        1. David Ellis says:

          For my money Corbyn is nowhere near anti-Zionist enough. In fact he seems to be a supporter of the Zionist’s bogus two-state peace process and even seems to want to bring Hamas into that process. In actual fact the Palestinian National Democratic Revolution absent Zionism and imperialism would be made first and foremost against the kind of hostile anti-working class classes that you find clustered around Fatah and the feudal theocrats of Hamas. These are the forces that are preventing Palestinian liberation. A bantustand and a bombed out ghetto do not a nation make and trying to get them recognised internationally as such is just playing into the Zionist lie and the lie of the Ghetto Gangsters and Bantu Bosses. Only when the international labour movement finally adopts a programme for a unified (West Bank, Gaza, Israel), democratic, secular Palestine in which Muslims, Jews, Christians and those of no faith can live in harmony and to which the refugees can return to new jobs and homes will we be making progress. Anti-Zionism must be much more thoroughgoing or it is a prisoner of the Zionists and their collaborators.

          1. David Ellis says:

            In other words a true anti-Zionist would completely reject the peace process and wish to see the sectarian proto-fascist, anti-semitic state of Israel completely wiped off the map. I don’t think Jeremy wants that unfortunately.

  2. Bazza says:

    Yes a great initiative for young people to have a genuine voice in Labour!

  3. AW1983 says:

    The buy to let sector has to be smashed once and for all. You smash the property market, you save Britain. Let’s show pond life like Fergus & Judith Wilson that they have no future in our society.

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