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My statement on the Labour Party limiting youth participation at international events

My interest and enthusiasm in becoming a proud Young European within the Labour Party happened quite by accident. At a London Young Labour event I overheard news of a trip to the European Parliament for LGBT Labour members. Deciding to go, despite not knowing any other participants at the time, was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made.

I returned with lifelong friends, a deeper understanding of Britain’s role in Europe, and a desire to represent the UK at future Young European Socialist occasions. Indeed, I even stood to be Labour Student’s International Officer, thus was my passion to continue my European learning and development.

I didn’t have to wait long; in April 2012 I was delighted to represent UK Labour once more at Queer Easter, a week-long LGBTQ seminar in Germany for all organisations that fall under YES (at that time known as ECOSY – European Community Organisation of Socialist Youth) and the International Falcon Movement.

I cannot emphasise enough how much Queer Easter developed me as a person and Labour Party member, hidden ignorance within society became unmasked as I was united with sisters and brothers from across Europe, sharing struggles and cases of best practise, forging friendships and partnerships in the comfort of a safe space so rarely found even within our own organisations.

This led me to my next international event – ECOSY Summer Camp, on the Croatian coast in July 2012. My experience in Croatia was mixed to say the least; I was the victim of homophobic verbal assault. Bearing in mind the location that this took place, it was very shocking.

What was more shocking and distressing however was the media coverage that this received, being featured in a highly fabricated article in the Mail on Sunday, with the ‘story’ being retweeted by the likes of Tory MEP Dan Hannan, in a desperate attempt to smear European Socialism, regardless of a story’s level of truth or merit.

Those perpetrators of homophobia represented an extremely (again, I cannot emphasise this enough) small minority of participants, and were immediately kicked out of the venue by those in charge. I was very happy with the response I received, yet I do believe that more could be done to ensure that nasty incidents like this did not occur. An identified Safe Space on-site would be an answer to this, and I know for certain that YES are working hard to ensure that all forms of bigotry and intolerance are never tolerated, and always dealt with swiftly and effectively.

Yet this was not my enduring memory of Summer Camp 2012. Instead, I remember the camaraderie and friendship that blossomed between the UK’s participants; here was a group, many of whom were strangers on Day 1, united by our shared values within the Labour Party. I could always turn to the UK contingent for advice, for support, and for fun. The warmth and solidarity of the UK’s large contingent was noted by many other countries – I was very proud to play a part in this.

It is with this in mind that I am deeply distressed and puzzled by the news that Young Labour is to limit its contingent at Summer Camp 2013 to just 5 members, a paltry ten percent of our contingent entitlement. At a time when Labour’s young membership is so healthy and growing, and when issues relating to Europe are in the spotlight once more, it is nonsensical for us to have this closed door policy, working to exclude those who wish to play a more active role on the European stage.

If Labour had had just 5 members present at Summer Camp last year, it would without a doubt been to the detriment of the camp as a whole. My wish, my passion, is to take the ethos and learning of Queer Easter to other YES events in the future, providing an open, educated and active space for all our members and friends from across the continent. But for this we need strength in numbers. I really hope the Labour Party rethinks this potentially disastrous decision and allows us to start thriving in Europe once more.

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