By Estelle Hart / @estellehart
Since joining the party at 15 my fellow members have asked me the same question at meeting after meeting: where are all the other young members? Without fail before I can point out that it’s 8.30 on a Friday night as I write this and most people have a better social life than me I hear some variation on these classics:
“Young people don’t care about the big picture, they are interested in single issues”.
“Young people don’t care about anything”.
“We’ve got plenty of young people here” – this one is accompanied with a gesture towards groups of 40 year olds.
We need to wake up and smell the coffee (fairtrade of course) and realise that continually ignoring the real reasons young people don’t get involved in the party will mean a party where CLPs with high youth involvement are held up as shining examples not the norm and more and more local parties become talking shops.
I have some suggestions for those CLPs where 90% of young members on the membership list never come to meetings and those who do spend most of their time looking terrified.
1. Hold all member meetings and don’t hold them on Friday nights
The process of getting to attend your first constituency wide meeting is daunting and to then find a meeting held at the end of a long week (usually in a cold room), would you really want to go back? A meeting at a sensible time where everyone can contribute and we can put or collectivist principle into practice. Yes please.
2. Change things up a bit, discuss something new
Whilst it’s probably a lot of fun to discuss what you’ve discussed at the last 20 meetings why not discuss what the party’s approach to renewable energy should be? Why not have a serious discussion about campaigning or fundraising? As well as involving new members and getting new ideas you might even surprise yourself.
3. Stop making the first young member you see the youth officer
If I want to be on the executive I will decide what to run for.
4. Stop talking about young people only being interested in single issues
As a trade unionist people don’t say I’m only interested in the “single issue of workers rights”. As a feminist I don’t get told the Labour Party maybe isn’t for me because women’s liberation is the reserve of pressure groups. So why because I’m young do I get told I’m not interested in the big picture. Just having an interest in something doesn’t mean I don’t have any other interests.
5. Ask your members what they want
I know what I’d like to see CLPs do but all officers and all activists have a responsibility to make sure that our party structures whether locally or nationally are always delivering for our members.