Young Labour and Gaza: first as farce, then as farce

GazaThe religion of socialism is for me not so much the language of priorities, as  the language of common sense, of right and wrong. So sitting on the Young Labour national committee has been a frustrating experience. At the August meeting, senior members of the committee – including chair Simon Darvill and national executive committee (NEC) rep Bex Bailey – voted a motion on the crisis in Gaza off the agenda. If you’ve read any of my previous reports back from meetings (see footnote for links), you might be forgiven for thinking this sort of behaviour is a Young Labour tradition.

The motion had been proposed by south-east rep Max Shanly to be submitted by Young Labour as its contemporary motion to Labour conference. This is not a secret process – every year, like constituency branches, Young Labour can submit either one topical motion or one rule change. At this time last year, the committee voted to submit a motion on zero-hour contracts. Despite the timetable being plainly evident, committee members moaned that they had not had the chance to consider alternatives, and therefore that the motion should not be heard. Continue reading

It’s official: Young Labour can debate policy for two hours every two years

Young Labour on the March for the AlternativeWho could possibly enjoy the feeling of I-told-you-so when the mess you’re faced with offends you as much as anyone, if not most of all? Certainly not me at the last Young Labour national committee meeting. Along with a minority of committee members, I had spent the previous two meetings warning that giving up any say over policy and stance was a bad move for the committee.  Deferring all such discussions to the youth wing’s policy conference would mean issues would be irrelevant by the time they got discussed.

Take the motion Max Shanly put forward to October’s meeting, calling for Labour to bring the Royal Mail back into public ownership if we won the 2015 election. It was party policy anyway, and it might even put a full stop to the privatisation. But months before the policy conference at which it apparently made sense to discuss it, the stockbrokers had moved in and calling on the leadership to act seems an irrelevance. And in December, the motion I tabled that was apparently oh-so-offensive was deliberately conciliatory. It only called on Young Labour to join the campaign against surveillance of students and trade unionists – and called on NEC youth rep Bex Bailey to raise the issue at next meeting of Labour’s executive. Not even a policy issue, arguably, though certainly time sensitive. Continue reading

Young Labour committee votes to discuss policy no more than every two years

Young Labour on the March for the AlternativeAt October’s Young Labour national committee meeting, committee members, including chair Simon Darvill and NEC rep Bex Bailey, voted to reject two motions as agenda items: on the grounds that it was not the committee’s place to pass substantive motions, and that this should be left to the biennial policy conference.

This has a very worrying implication: that Young Labour will never again be able to take a substantive position on the majority of issues as they arise. The central argument for voting against hearing the motions was: Young Labour does not need to have motions in order to do stuff. We can simply organise meetings and campaigns, so long as we mention it at meetings. But to have no proper process for officially endorsing political positions and priorities between conference is surely unsafe. Continue reading

Young Labour: “any weakening of the union link should be opposed”

Save the Labour-Union LinkThe national committee of the Labour Party’s young wing, Young Labour, vowed on Wednesday night “to defend the right of trade union members through their affiliated trade union to take part in the selection of candidates at every level of the party”.

Young Labour joins scores of grassroots activists and party units in expressing concern over recent weeks at the potential for the historic relationship between Labour and the trade unions to be fundamentally weakened in the wake of the Falkirk selection crisis. The motion passed at Wednesday night’s national committee meeting is an amended version of one passed at the youth wing’s biggest regional group – London Young Labour – last month.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading