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Labour Students wreck their own wrecking amendment

tuition fees demoLast night the Labour Students and Progress block on the Young Labour national committee accidentally wrecked their own wrecking amendment, thereby wrecked (for them) the overall motion, and then voted it down – despite their amendment having been carried. The bizarre spectacle was the climax of a shoddy episode which once again revealed that Labour Students believe education is a privilege, and that citizens should be charged for being educated.

A motion in support of next month’s free education demo had been tabled by Rida Vaquas – as Left Futures reported yesterday. The motion was not a policy motion – the Young Labour committee isn’t allowed to discuss policy, remember? – but was about taking a position on an event in the near future. Consequently, whereas motions generally are split into “…notes”, “…believes” and “…resolves” sections, Vaquas left out “believes” so there was less chance of the motion being voted down on these (equally spurious) grounds.

Nonetheless, this was apparently too much to handle for the proposers of the amendment – which was intended as a near-on delete-all… And Now for Something Completely Different piece, supporting a graduate tax. Labour Students secretary Grace Skelton and Labour NEC rep Bex Bailey successfully worded the deletion of evidence for the success of free education and negative impact of fees in the notes section. (Round of applause for them.) But in an act of sheer carelessness (or complacency, perhaps), they failed to move for the deletion of support for the demo in the resolves section. Instead, they moved to delete the non-existent “…believes” section! Supporters of the motion failed to notice this until after the amendment was carried. They proposed a second amendment, and the exasperated chair initially tried to move to  vote, but after objections on grounds of consistency from several committee members he gave up.

So in the biggest pantomime the committee has seen, right-wingers who had spent the past half-hour espousing how great the motion would be if they amended it subsequently voted it down. Left committee members voted in favour of the motion – having already expressed our opposition to a graduate tax through opposing the amendment, it was thought that supporting the principle of a demo was more important than the possible contradictions of the amended motion.

Less amusing were the unconvincing, pessimistic and downright outrageous arguments made by these committee members in favour of students paying for their own education. After a barnstorming speech from Vaquas, who said “I don’t believe we should tax people for being educated, we should tax people’s wealth”, the Skelton-Bailey amendment was introduced – oddly – by Labour Students chair Finn McGoldrick. Referring to “so-called free education”, she said it would “take money away from poor families and re-distributing to higher earners”.

“I don‘t think that is a socialist principle, and I hope the committee agrees,” she continued, despite the fact Labour Students aren’t remotely socialist. “I don’t want to go back to a system where we take money from poor people and give it to privileged kids to study philosophy at Russell Group universities.”

In the first speech against the amendment, I objected both on grounds of principle and on the grounds that it was a different sort of motion entirely. We’re not talking about going to the system they have in Germany, we’re not talking about the system we used to have here (both of which had been belittled for educating a smaller proportion of the population), we’re talking about looking forward to the sort of system we want to achieve. In other words, stop being so bloody pessimistic in the name of “economic credibility” or whatever Progress bods call it.

In an embarrassing, intervention, West Midland rep Jeevan Jones objected to taxation funding free education for “David Cameron’s children”. As trade union rep Hazel Nolan asked, would he object to taxation funding healthcare for David Cameron’s children too? “We should all be more aspirational in our socialism,” she added.

Trade union rep Alex Halligan strongly objected to the notion that free education was anti-working class. And Vaquas and South East rep Max Shanly pointed out that there was no need to tax the poor to pay for free education, as demonstrated by Young Labour’s own policy for a super-tax.

The youth wing’s policy on higher education is ultimately as non-existent as it was before – though there will still be a contingent of Young Labour members on the demo (you can sign up here). But for once, the procedural tricks and filibusters that the right wing pull out every single meeting backfired. I can’t say I feel too sorry for them.


  1. Chris says:

    Alas, Labour Students is dominated by right-wing careerists looking to get into the politics industry.

  2. John Reid says:

    I think Bex Bailey and Alex hallgians hearts were in the right place, Progress block, is this progress magazine are they an influence on YL?, can’t see dan young simon Darvill being associated

    Nor in the past was Sam Tarry, not since Pete Whites days infact

  3. David Melvin says:

    If this lot is the future of the Labour party!

  4. Robert says:

    One Nation Progress party.

  5. Axel Landin says:

    John, how can you think Bex Bailey and Alex Halligan were in the right place? They were completely at odds with each other, according to this report!

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