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The cost of Young Labour democracy: £30 per person per night

Every year the monster of getting as many members as possible to a conference rears its ugly and expensive head. Hundreds of 14 to 26 year-old members will be heading to Leicester in March for Labour’s Youth Conference, but it’s not really a question of “is there any room at the inn?”

Instead, “There’s very few inns, and they’ve all got massive price tags, so can I really afford to come and vote for my representatives in Young Labour?”

£30 for a delegate pass – that gets defended on Twitter as a reasonable price for a weekend. But then you are faced with the next challenge. Helpfully, young delegates received the following advice from Youth Officer Dean Carlin and the team:

It is your responsibility to book your own travel and accommodation. Now that your place at National Youth Conference is confirmed, we recommend you do this as soon as possible. You might wish to contact your local Constituency Labour Party to ask if they can help cover some of the costs.

Cue the furious mental maths trying to work out what a train/coach plus two to three days accommodation will cost.

In terms of location, a point that proved highly controversial when Glasgow was selected last youth conference, Leicester has the obvious advantage of being in a central location within England and Wales, and with good travel links to Northern Ireland and Scotland from East Midlands airport and the east coast mainline.

Unfortunately, it’s a county town of modest size, and with no disrespect, it isn’t top on the tourist destination list. For this reason, finding cheap accommodation in Leicester is a struggle, as it just doesn’t have the hostels and self-catered accommodation options that lower the price for young people. A search on popular hostel booking sites for the area comes up with a blank, and what young members will be instead left with is a list of ‘budget’ hotels.

Young members just simply don’t have the money to pay for hotels. The demographic of Young Labour itself can develop a complacency to this, when most of the committee are in their late 20s and for the most part, employed. The youngest Labour members are still in school and sixth form and only those with part-time work or very generous parents will bridge the accommodation hurdle without any problems.

To Young Labour’s credit, they have struck a deal with Leicestershire County Council for discounted accommodation during the event. However, the pricing options range from £25-30 per person, per night which just isn’t affordable for someone still in full-time education, unemployed or on a student budget.

A key example of this is how candidate for chair, 19-year-old Kate Taylor has come out publicly admitting to be struggling to find the funds to attend the event. I’m sure many CLPs, unions and socialist societies will be hearing from their young members, but not before other young members regretfully decide not to attend.

As an organisation, Young Labour doesn’t regularly host events of this scale and admittedly it’s a learning process. A leaf needs to be taken out of the book of other young members organisations who hold residential events. Residential events are a whole different kettle of fish to the standard conference model, but for young people, the option to have pre-booked accommodation when they arrive is reassuring, before they embark on what will undoubtedly be an overwhelming weekend. All over the country, there are plenty of centres that can offer this.

For example, up until this year, Labour Students hosted their ‘Political Weekend’ at Stoke Rochford Hall in Lincolnshire for a fair price.

Nor does it help that the structure of youth conference has changed in a way that makes it much more difficult for young members to get support from their local parties.

An attempt to mimic the party conference model just isn’t accessible for young members, and Young Labour needs to address this fast, so that the democracy of the organisation isn’t just put in the hands of only those who can pay for hotel rooms.

Caroline Hill has been elected as a trade union representative on the Young Labour national committee. You can see a list of candidates from the left campaigning for greater access and democracy in Young Labour here.

7 Comments

  1. treborc says:

    Changed from my days then tents are now out, we use to have a tent, a stove and a tin of soup. Those were the days when we went out on a march it was pack the tent and the stove sleeping bag and we were off.

    £30 for a pass, time to quit the party then…

  2. JS says:

    Have the editors of this website really agreed to do an article on where Young Labour have their conference?? really? Moaning about choosing Glasgow? where, frankly, the Labour Party Annual Conference really ought to go given Glasgow’s historic place in the Labour Movement and impending referendum on Scottish independence.

    And isn’t it standard practice to ask CLPs to help cover costs of going to conferences?

    Maybe to facilitate democracy for Young Labour in future a fundraising drive can be undertaken by Left Futures to hire a venue somewhere not too controversial and pay for all the travel.

    Caroline seems to be arguing for no national get-together to make collective decisions?

  3. Matty says:

    “isn’t it standard practice to ask CLPs to help cover costs of going to conferences?”
    I wonder if you have read the article linked to
    https://www.leftfutures.org/2012/10/young-labour-conference-potentially-unaffordable-under-new-structure/
    which states
    “Without delegates representing their constituencies in an official capacity, it is unlikely that they will be able to get the financial support many will need in order to make the trip. “

  4. JS says:

    Well that is just an assertion – out CLP would help a young person with their costs. Many other would as well (assuming they can afford to – but that goes for sending delegates to any conference). Just bumping gums I think.

  5. Matty says:

    It’s not just an assertion, if you had bothered to read the linked article you would have found out that the author received a £50 contribution from his CLP to his costs of about £130. He paid for the rest out of his own pocket because luckily he had a bit saved up. If he hadn’t had any savings what do you think he should have done?

    By the way, the author of the linked article also writes “I ended up helping several comrades to get support from their CLPs, some of which were generous, and others – perhaps cashstrapped – refused outright.”

  6. Robert says:

    In the end Labour has to think hard about the working class, people working on the min wage , sadly we now believe that labour is more akin to the middle class, sadly the difference is about £10,000 a year.

    I went to a few conferences and we ended up actually camping out.

  7. RedShift says:

    Frankly, I think Young Labour nationally is becoming a bit of a waste of time. I think they’d be better putting the real power into each regional young labour body and the national one should be more sharing best practice, etc.

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