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Why should the Labour Party make arbitrary rulings on Young Labour’s international participation?

I reacted with dismay and astonishment by the Labour Party’s arbitrary decision to limit the number of participants at the Young European Socialists summer-camps to five (out of a possible fifty), stopping most members from attending.

I attended the 2012 summer-camp in Croatia and it was a really rewarding experience. It’s a really rare chance to meet, discuss and socialise with young socialists from across Europe. However this opportunity has been cruelly taken away from the majority of young members by the party staff.

There are a number of problems with the position that the party machine has taken in limiting Young Labour’s involvement in international events.

  1. The Party has ridden roughshod over Young Labour’s democratic structures. The decision to limit what Young Labour can do with its sister organisations was made without any consultation at all with the Young Labour National Committee. Their decision has highlighted a lot of outstanding issues about Young Labour’s lack of internal democracy and autonomy that need to be addressed.
  2. The Party seems happy to hang members who have suffered homophobia and other forms of discrimination out to dry. My good friend and comrade Daniel De La Motte Harrison wrote the other day how he had suffered homophobia from a small minority of participants at the last summer camp and that the Daily Mail had written a spurious and innocuous piece on it. The Labour Party’s motive in limiting international participation seems to be simply to avoid any such embarrassment and sweep any incidents of discrimination against its LGBTQ members (and those of any other under-represented group) under the carpet rather than defend them.
  3. Labour Party management has limited youth participation based on an arbitrary decision to wrongly categorise the summer-camp as a “representative” event. The Party’s new guidelines limits  “representative” events where Young Labour elects people to vote and participate on its behalf (i.e. conferences, congresses and bureau and committee meetings) to 5 participants whereas international events that are open to all members and are not “representative” can have unlimited participation. The Summer-camp has been mis-categorised as falling into the former type of event when it is clearly not “representative” but a social and political gathering for young socialists all over Europe without any democratic decisions will be made. Members of the Presidium of the Young European Socialists agree that the party’s categorisation of the summer-camp as a “representative” event is mistaken.
  4. If the party is at all concerned with participation of Young Labour at the summer-camp then they should not just stop us from going but they should sort out proper safeguarding guidelines for young members at such events. Aside from any international events, the development a safeguarding procedure for members is essential if the Party’s youth section is to grow. It would be relatively straightforward for the Party to sort out a safeguarding procedure for young participants and if they are still concerned then why can’t the National Youth Officer Dean Carlin not accompany us to the summer-camp this year in Turkey?

The newly elected Young Labour National Committee is having its first meeting this Saturday following March’s Youth Conference. At that meeting I hope that young members’ representatives make a real effort to exert their rightful democratic control of Young Labour away from the arbitrary decisions of the party staff and make clear that members should be protected with proper safeguarding procedures, that cases of discrimination should not be swept under the carpet and that the party has wrongly categorised the summer-camp as a “representative” event, when it clearly isn’t.

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