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Young Labour chiefs Simon Darvill and Bex Bailey vote against their own pledges

Oxfordshire Young Labour on the March for the AlternativeYoung Labour. Long derided by European allies as “the Blair Witch Project”, but 2013 was the year it was all supposed to have changed. At the organisation’s annual conference in March, delegates were promised by candidates of all the party’s shades that things could only get better.

Even candidates of the right, allied as ever with the National Organisation of Labour Students (NOLS), pledged their commitment to trade unionism. Victorious candidates Bex Bailey (the youth rep on Labour’s executive – or NEC) and Simon Darvill (Young Labour chair) pledged their commitment to future elections being conducted via a “one member one vote” ballot of members, as opposed to a delegate conference, prone to packing by NOLS. They also pledged to introduce written policy motions. Yet at the first meeting of the new Young Labour National Committee’s term of office last night (19/06/13), they voted against this very principle.

The rules governing Young Labour are set out in the party’s main rule book. (This situation is itself not appropriate – in other respects, Young Labour is afforded affiliate status, such as in its delegation’s rights at Labour annual conference. It is the only organisation with such affiliate rights not permitted its own constitution.) The rule book’s guidelines on Young Labour conference are especially vague:

Young Labour conference shall be held from time to time as determined by the NEC under rules approved by party conference.

At Young Labour’s last policy conference, members voted to include policies such as adequate provision of travellers’ sites, and the building of one million new council houses in a “priority campaign” on youth homelessness. Yet party officials and the last national committee made no record of this, and when campaign materials were published, these elements were not mentioned. This has prompted at least one constituency Labour party (CLP) to submit a constitutional amendment to the party’s rule book, which would  establish a formal system of policy motions.

This was also a hot issue in the recent Young Labour elections. Bex Bailey and Simon Darvill were amongst those quick to tie their colours to the mast of written policy motions. Simon put it as such in his speech at Young Labour conference:

I will overhaul the policy process introducing motions

At Manchester Young Labour’s hustings, Bex was similarly explicit:

Notice should be given well in advance of policy motions so members can prepare for debates and gain the confidence to engage

At last night’s Young Labour National Committee meeting, South East representative Max Shanly proposed that Young Labour take advantage of its right to submit a constitutional amendment to annual conference – and proposed that this be the very amendment establishing written policy motions. (Its submission from Young Labour would significantly increase its chances of appearing on the conference agenda, and would compel the Young Labour delegation to vote in favour.)

What followed was a farce. The committee, taking direction from speeches by Simon and NOLS chair Callum Munro, decided not only to reject the change to which these successful candidates had pledged their support, but determined to not submit any motion to annual conference at all.

Only three committee members – Max, under-19s officer Rida Vaquas, and I – spoke and voted in favour of submitting an annual conference motion. (Other left committee members were unable to make the meeting, though the right’s majority was so large that their presence would not have affected the outcome.)

The right’s arguments against submitting a motion were flimsy to say the least. Here they are, one by one, followed by the facts, and the solutions proposed by Max, Rida and I:

  • It is too late to consider such a motion. – Max had not submitted it in time to make the published agenda, although he had sent it to the Labour’s national youth officer in advance of the meeting for circulation. The agenda included “Any Other Business”
  • It would be wrong to submit a motion without knowing whether it had the support of the Young Labour membership. Is forming a key part of a winning manifesto not enough to demonstrate the popularity of an initiative?
  • No-one knew we would discuss this tonight – if we’d have known about it, other people would have brought their own suggestions. Young Labour’s chance to submit a motion to annual conference is a recent development, as part of the reform package under “Refounding Labour” championed by the then chair and NEC rep, Susan Nash and Callum Munro. It’s a pretty key part of the party process. Surely if committee members aren’t aware of this and the June 21st deadline, it is the job of the chair and/or national youth officer to let them know?
  • We should get involved in conference in other ways, such as speaking from the podium. Does submitting a motion prevent us from doing this? Or does it give us more opportunities to speak? You decide!
  • Committee members taking part in this meeting via conference call cannot see the motion written down. Max proposed, and I reiterated, that in the two days between the meeting and the deadline for submissions, the text of the motion – or indeed multiple motions for consideration – could be circulated among committee members by email, and a decision taken subsequently. This suggestion was ignored, and not even graced with a reply.

At least five excuses, and not one of them offering justification for voting against a principle off the back of which candidates clearly won support. It seems there’s still an awful lot to do within Young Labour before it represents its own members, let alone the nation’s young workers.

Conrad Landin is East of England representative on the Young Labour National Committee, and associate editor of Left Futures. He is happy for his personal accounts of committee meetings to be reproduced and circulated to members as such. This report will be followed by one dealing with other aspects of the 19/06/13 meeting, including issues specific to the East.


  1. Maion Lock says:

    Young members of the Labour Party are the future representatives of the working people of Britain.
    Future policy must be discussed openly, and voted on democratically. Young Labour MUST debate issues which concern young people, develop motions for Conference, elect their best speakers to support them and let the whole Party know their views. Us “old ‘uns” desperately need your participation!

  2. Johnreid says:

    Young people ofthe Labour party are the future representatives ofthe working people of Britain, ?

    Are you sure that there aren’t future working people in the U.K who’ll vote Tory?

    may beyoung labour aRe too busy fighting trots to deal with policy changes,

  3. Rod says:

    John Reid: “may beyoung labour aRe too busy fighting trots”

    Perhaps, by way of relief, they could occasionally do something equally irrelevant: hunt unicorns.

  4. Johnreid says:

    Not really, as trots infultrating labour normally puts us out of power for years, and wi king elections so we can implement our manifesto,is more important,

  5. Rod says:


    The trots are irrelevent and there are no trots infiltrating Labour.

    Happy unicorn hunting!

  6. Johnreid says:

    Ken wants Lfuthur to rejoin, and as for unicorns, the reason the RMT were expelled, was they also backed Trotskyite parties as well as Labour unions can’t back more than one organisation,

    But if someone was member of a n organisation that did affiliate with anther political party that was backed someone else people could belong to labour and them, So technically someone could be a member of the EDL and labour !

  7. Rod says:

    Sorry John, you’ve lost me with that.

  8. Rob says:

    Labour has changed and not for the better and the people within Labour are basically Tories.

    Labour should be the party of the working class, not the hard working or even the working.

    I get fed up hearing about being the party of the hard working, means that if your blown up in Iraq injured or your out of work due to no employment, Labour has what dumped us to go somewhere else.

    No wonder people have left the party.

  9. Johnreid says:

    Rod Iraq aside, what makes you think the worki class ,would alway vote labour left wing or not, 79-97,!

  10. peter willsman says:

    I take it that the rule change Max tabled was the one suggested by CLPD ie. to allow motions to the YL Conference from local YL groups, affiliatesand CLPs. This would mean that the YL Conference would have a structured discussion of pertinent policy issues which would provide the basis for the Contemporary policy Motion that YL can now submit to the Party Annual Conference. Who could oppose this democratic advance except perhaps a neo Blairite careerist?

  11. Johnreid says:

    Getting onto the top table of YL, is a sign of having a career already, opposing the leadership, when your not in YL, is a bit like trot old school

  12. John Fraser says:

    Having been active many years back in the YLs (sorry thats the Young Liberals in my case.. well so was Peter Hain :)). I always thought a strong Youth wing was essential both as a training ground for a party and sometimes to try to find new and radical policy areas. Taking this report at face value I am saddened to hear that Young labour don’t have written and recorded conference motions.. this makes it sound a bit like the tory party conference, and must leave ordinary members dispirited . I very much hope that those that were elected will do what they said in their manifesto . A democratic inclusive youth wing is essential to any party . J Fraser (Labour party member since 2010)

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