Explaining the election of Malia Bouattia

What to make of the election of Malia Malia Bouattia to the presidency of the National Union of Students? Well, the political establishment are pretty clear about the opinions every right-thinking person should have. “Malia Bouattia’s election as NUS president proves deeply divisive“, says The Graun. “Disaffiliation threat could leave NUS facing a financial blackhole“, The HuffPo writes. And eager to stir things up, the increasingly tabloid Telegraph reckons Malia’s election “sends a dark message to Jewish students“. Sounds serious.

In my younger days, I was often of the view that if radicals succeeded in pissing off the centre left establishment, then it couldn’t be so bad. Specifically in the case of the NUS, I do recall a sliver of hysteria greeting the election of Kat Fletcher to the NUS president’s post in 2004. A position, in case we’ve forgotten, that has long been regarded the private property of wannabe Labour MPs in what passes for the students’ movement. Well, the sky didn’t fall in, Kat went on to become a Jez aide/handler, and after 2006 control returned to a succession of colourless and uninteresting mediocrities. And yes Wes, I include you in that number. Continue reading

Young Labour in Left landslide but chaos, manipulation & smears mar NEC election

Young Labour Labour Students Next GenerationThe Young Labour conference in Scarborough this weekend has seen the triumph of the Momentum Youth and Student slate in the elections for the Young Labour national committee. The sweeping victory of the Left for the first time in 30 years presents an opportunity to create a movement capable of attracting not those who want careers in politics but those who were enthused in such large numbers last summer by the prospect of a new kind of politics. Unfortunately it is marred by the dirtiest contest for an internal election I have ever witnessed.

What the Labour Party needs is a generation of activists motivated by idealism and hope with the ambition to make the world a better, greener, more equal place, with communities that care about peoples’ needs, and workplaces that develop skills and offer secure jobs with proper wages. Not another, much smaller generation of people who would provide yet more identikit MPs in suits, of whom the British public have already seen too many. Continue reading

Democracy with a price tag is a dangerous precedent

Young Labour Labour Students Next GenerationAs a youth worker for over 17 years some of my best political conversations have been with young people. However, sadly many of those young people do not engage with the democratic systems and political parties in our country.

So I was extremely proud to hear not one, but three [one as a delegate from their Labour students group] young Labour members from Tottenham had been elected as delegates to the National Young Labour Conference taking place this month. It gave me comfort that young Labour members in my area were so engaged that they not only joined the party but also got involved.

Tottenham is one of the most deprived areas of the UK, although this may not reflect the socio-economic status of the elected delegates who live in Tottenham, we can make some assumptions that during times of austerity we know young adults are one of the groups hardest hit, therefore financial barriers would probably exist for many young members, even if not from Tottenham, but being from Tottenham is likely to increase the risk of financial exclusion. Continue reading

Labour must make an explicitly political case for voter registration

ballot boxThis weekend, Momentum will be beginning its ‘Democracy SOS’ project – a mass voter registration drive to combat the Tories’ partisan attempts to drive millions of people off the electoral roll.

Soon half of voters aged 18 to 24, who overwhelming support Labour and will be crucial to winning back dozens of seats in 2020, will drop off the electoral register due to IER reforms.

LabourList reports:

It is believed that the Tories’ individual electoral registration (IER) reforms mean that 1.9 million people could fall off the electoral register in under six weeks’ time. Momentum claim that a further 8 million adults may not be on the register at all, meaning that 10 million will not be able to use their vote in next May’s elections.

Gloria de Piero has been making the case this week, in her new Shadow Cabinet role as Minister for Young People and Voter Registration, and clearly knows where the non-voters are – in areas the Tories tend to punish:

We know what kinds of voters are more likely to be missing: they are private renters, people from BAME communities, the unemployed and lower-paid manual workers. But perhaps the greatest divide is between the older and the younger generation. Some 95% of over-65s are on the electoral register, yet the proportion of 18 to 24-year-olds is just 70%.

The issue, however, is that in the past these registration drives are as uninspiring and out of touch as the politicians on offer: see the Electoral Commission’s dull About My Vote website, or the National Union of Students’ #GenerationVote campaign.

Student unions are often reduced to running bizarre and quirky campaigns that are de-politicised and fail to make the case to students that the Tories will damage their interests significantly, although in the best cases they are encouraged to register by the university themselves, which in Sheffield has lead to 64% registered. It’s also important to note that if you are only encouraging a student to register to vote for a free cookie, or another freebie, then you haven’t inspired them to use their vote for the Labour Party.

This is then the key issue: voter registration campaigns must be explicitly political and centred around the same messages that you would use for an election campaign.

If Momentum can create and sustain a base reaching out to these groups, Corbyn will have a much easier job of getting would-be voters registered. The Party must organise campaigns in communities with low voter turnout that go beyond simply asking you to ‘use your democratic right’, and encourage people, especially the young, those in education, or those looking for work, to give themselves a better future by registering to vote – in order to vote Labour.

Continuing the Corbyn momentum – relaunching the Labour Left

Keep LeftOn 12 September we will find out whether Jeremy Corbyn is the next leader of the Labour Party. There is, of course, an increased reluctance to accept opinion polls at face value, so any optimism is still cautious. But whatever the result it is already clear that the Labour Party has changed. There has been a mass influx of 400,000 new members and supporters, of which 60% are thought to be ‘youth’. An unprecedented momentum has come behind the previously ailing Labour left, bringing with it great potential. But at the same time the situation is precarious: we urgently need to come together to ensure that these hundreds of thousands of new members and supporters do not vanish as quickly as they appeared.

If Corbyn loses on 12 September, platitudes will be given about how valuable his contributions have been, but behind the scenes the party machine will have already sprang into action. The Parliamentary Labour Party has already learned its lesson and now knows the danger of allowing members any power. Proposals to make future elections ‘fairer’ and ‘more transparent’ will come forward while left-wingers are publicly expelled and made examples. The right-wing will try to compensate for the Party’s ‘summer of madness’ by posturing more rightwards still. In response, the sectarians in organisations like the Socialist Workers Party will say ‘I told you so’ and claim their point proven: there is no future in the Labour Party.

Corbyn supporters will be demoralised. A few will leave and many more will simply lose enthusiasm. Continue reading