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Young Labour: get some fire in your belly, don’t leave politics to the grown ups

The chosen pessimistWhat’s the point in a political committee without any politics?

The duty of the Young Labour National Committee is to represent members’ concerns, help them organise, and, importantly, vocalise our collective politics. But as a committee member, I’ve seen that all too often this isn’t the case.

There is no doubt that the committee is composed of immensely dedicated and diligent members. But too frequently any political discussion is hastily averted. What should be the shout of our young members is quietened down to a whimper. Significantly, the committee voted to render itself an essentially apolitical body in October 2013 – choosing not to debate two motions that had been put before it.

The use of the motion structure is a fair and democratic way of making resolutions, elucidating exactly what the beliefs are, and specifically what action will be undertaken. In the past, the committee successfully passed motions to reinforce Young Labour’s support for the trade union link, and through this strengthening our bond with the wider labour movement.

Most members take part in these meetings via the phone – so having a written motion undoubtedly helps to follow what is being debated, and means that what is agreed to will be carried out. Given this, the objections to using motions in committee are unconvincing at best.

Through not discussing motions, the committee also determined that all policy discussion must be crushed into just a few hours of the youth wing’s ‘policy conference’, which takes place every two years. This inevitably means that by the time things actually come up for discussion, the situation has changed to the point that our capacity for effective action has been reduced.

To take a recent example, at the last committee meeting, other members and I called on Young Labour to formally support the teachers in their industrial dispute, when they were balloting for strike action, but it wasn’t definite.

Conrad Landin suggested we send a message of solidarity to NUT, which you would think is relatively uncontroversial. It was however resolved that the message would be written and then discussed at the next meeting – in August! By this time, the crucial moment when our support was needed had already passed.

As young members, we all know Young Labour has the potential to be so much more, as shown by the creativity and radical optimism of the policies voted through at our last conference. Young Labour now has policy in favour of a “super-tax”, and building 200,000 council homes a year. But we can only seize all that is possible if we transform how the committee works and equally importantly more frequently involve the entirety of our membership in policymaking and organising.

Ultimately Young Labour must decide between two purposes. It can be an organisation driven by fire, where every member engages consciously as a part of the labour movement. Or it can resign itself to the pallid exertions of an exhausted body that leaves the political decisions, and therefore the outcomes, to the grown-ups.

 Rida Vaquas is Young Labour’s under-19 policy officer and has just completed her GCSEs. Last night, she received a rousing receptions after making a tremendous speech as the youngest ever speaker at the Labour conference rally of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy

One Comment

  1. Pauline Sharp says:

    The one thing I will tell my grandchildren is that The labour party decided to follow in Tory footsteps and cap child benefits. I am so angry words just fail me. Want me to vote labour you are going the wrong way about it in attacking women and children. I spit on this tactic. Unaceptable.

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