Young Labour leaders ridicule member for working in a restaurant

Young Labour Labour Students Next GenerationThis is the text of an open letter to Labour Party General Secretary, Iain McNicol

Dear Iain,

My name is Jake. You’ve only met me once so I doubt that you’d remember this particular bespectacled Labour-supporting 19 year old. Anyway, hello. I currently work in a restaurant in Waterloo. I enjoy my job. It’s sociable, fun and enables me to continue living in one of the most vibrant and diverse (and expensive) cities in the world. Like thousands of other people, I have to work hard to survive and thrive here. I’ve been a Labour Party member, volunteer and activist for 5 years.

The reason I’m contacting you is because I feel that any individual ‘beneath’ you, for want of a better word, wouldn’t facilitate in dealing with the nature of the problem. This is specifically in regard to Labour Students and Young Labour. However, even more specifically, its members Bex Bailey, Ben Dilks, Jack Falkingham, Ashley Wise and Jack Storry. Individuals whom I’m sure you’re extremely familiar with.

After Young Labour Youth Conference 2013 I decided to take a step back from the youth factions of the Labour Party for several reasons. I won’t bore you with the exact details as there’s a lot to cover in this letter. The principal reason behind this is the sheer level of disgusting behaviour and ‘jobs for mates’ elitist attitude that is so deeply embroiled in its structure. You know what I’m talking about, Iain, as I know that you’ve been contacted about this countless times. If you need reminding, Alex White wrote a rather diplomatic and eloquent piece about this exact issue last year. It covers most of what I wish to say about both organisations.

The individuals in-hand decided to visit the restaurant I work in during the evening on the 6 February 2015. They know who I am because I’m an active member of the party, so I’ve undoubtedly met them on several occasions. I was even pressured into voting for Bex for NEC in order to get support from NOLS in my candidacy for LGBT Officer. Although saying that, it was pulled because I dared to vote against the ‘whip’ and not the way I was ‘supposed to’.

Upon seeing me stood working front-of-house and greeting customers on a fairly busy shift, they felt it appropriate to stand at the top of the stairs and point and laugh at me. Just to reiterate – they pointed and laughed at me. I’ve been in this job for just over a month and for that to happen in front of colleagues and customers, it was humiliating and degrading to say the least.

Bex, Ben, Jack, Ashley and Jack all aspire to be MPs, I’m certain of that and I’m certain they will be one day. At present, they’re representatives of the Labour Party. They are the voice of our young members. They represent our views. They represent our morals. They are there as figures to lead and mobilise us to a general election victory this year. They are employed by Labour and Parliament and paid with our membership money and taxes. They are members of a party that prides itself on being the party of working people.

Instead of upholding the fundamental principles of the Party that they are work for and support, they’re classist snobs who feel it best to intimidate and mock someone who they deem to be beneath them. Their sentiments were made extremely clear when a colleague of mine heard one of them say “As if he works in a fucking restaurant”. Questionable that this was said, of course, but considering the nature of the incident it wouldn’t be wise to rule it out.

We must ask ourselves why we are being represented by people like this, Iain. We wouldn’t settle for any of this behaviour – behaviour which is attributed to members of the EDL and inebriated Tories – from any of our Members of Parliament, so why is it acceptable for Labour employees and key figures in our youth movement to do so? Lots of decent hardworking people have become disillusioned with Labour Students and Young Labour, people who we desperately need to get out and campaign for a Labour victory. To relate with Alex’s sentiments, I just hope that in a few years Labour Students will be unrecognisable from the closed shop which exists at the moment; the one which says you have to know people to even get your foot in the door, and join the cliques to get to where you can make decisions. I want the ridiculous idea which prevails at the top of left vs right, Trots vs Blairites, to be comprehensively smashed, and replaced with a forum for real, honest debate.

Bex, Ben, Jack, Ashley and Jack are shining examples of all that is wrong with the structure and executive of our youth divisions. Cliché as it is to quote from the back of your membership card, it’s of significance in this instance to do so. There is no common endeavour; only self-preservation and social climbing. There is no tolerance and respect from these members who stand at the top of the stairs and ridicule another member for working in a restaurant. There is no balanced opportunity or community while they reel off sound-bite after sound-bite in pretence of solidarity to reinforce their own interests.

Young people are key to Labour’s victory, Iain. This is just my experience, but I sincerely hope that it raises some key questions about Labour Students, Young Labour and the classist and elitist attitudes of its senior members. With a Labour Students committee election on the horizon, it needs to happen and it needs to happen now.

Best wishes,

Jake Johnstone

This letter first appeared on Jake’s own blog. Jake also tweets as @that_jake

  1. Jake: “‘jobs for mates’ elitist attitude that is so deeply embroiled in its structure.”

    There’s not much for Jake to look forward to. The main section of the Labour Party is the mirror image to the student and youth sections.

  2. Jake raises a hugely important issue. It needs more of us to speak up about it.

    An elitist inbred attitude with starry eyed groupies isn’t good!

    It is across all parties. But it’s only by speaking out it will change.

    Well done Jake!

  3. When Iain McNicol was appointed general secretary of the Labour Party, he promised to clean up the corrupt practices and political interference of staff in the party’s internal politics and elections/selections. Much progress has been made (albeit more slowly than Iain originally hoped) but it has not yet reached into Young Labour/Labour Students where staff interference is the rule not the exception and all appointments are factionalised and corrupt.

  4. If I was editor I would have asked Jake to have anonymised the alleged perpetrators here which would have made his case more powerful. Socialists in their personal behaviour should practice what they preach and if you don’t then you are in the wrong which is a ploitically weak position. My view is that we need at least 2 working class candidates (registrar general social scale classes 3-6 based on occupation of parent/s) on every Parliamentary shortlist and in short we need to get the Labour Party back to being run by working people for working people. They should also be democratic socialists and we then build a grassroots, bottom up, democratic, participatory, PROGRESIVE LABOUR. We also link up with brothrers and sisters internationally to make global demands. Yours in solidarity!

  5. I agree that the individuals accused in the letter should have been anonymised for publication purposes – unless LF is offerring space the those named to state their case. Having said that the general picture presented rings true. I wonder what exactly is the progress in cleaning up corrupt practices that Jon refers to. What I see both at local and national level is a party increasingly controlled by small groups of officials and apparatchiks. If that is right then the situation is one of a permanent invitation to corruption. The only effective antidote is thorough and open democratic practice and that does not appear to be a prime feature of Labour’s internal working.