I’ve no idea what motivated “A Supporter’s” incredulous attack on Labour Students and Young Labour activists, but it is amazing how much a bit of energy and optimism can irritate the irritable.
In May 2007, I was the agent to the incumbent MSP Sarah Boyack in the marginal seat of Edinburgh Central. The Lib Dems were set to beat us; spending twice the cash with what appeared to be an infinite army of foot soldiers distributing their dubious literature. The signs were not good but we held the seat against a 6% national swing which should have wiped us out and there were two clear reasons why we won.
Firstly, the rise of the SNP vote ironically helped us – forcing anti-Labour voters to split two ways allowing our candidate to hold steady in the middle.
Secondly, we held the seat because of damn hard work and I’m utterly convinced that without Labour Students and Young Labour activists – we would have lost that seat.
These individuals make huge sacrifices to help the party and they do it because they believe in it. Whether they were born to it, or joined their local Labour club at college, their love for the values of social justice and equality is as strong as their detest for all that seek to undermine those beliefs.
Maggie may only have stolen milk from a few but she stole the life blood from the towns and cities that many of these activists grew up in – cities enriched with Labour investment which these activists have a burning desire to defend and extend.
Sharing a drink with a Government Minister at Party conference is a perk for many young activists. Who would be immune to the excitement of chatting to the Prime Minister or sharing a G&T with the Foreign Secretary? The opportunity to chat with Cabinet Ministers, whose daily job is to apply the values they fight for, is the very least we can offer in thanks.
I was a youthful 23 years old when I was involved in my first general election campaign, defending Alistair Darling in Edinburgh South West against the Tories. I will always remember the day I was dispatched to one of six teams sent out for lamppost duty. We spent hours and hours up ladders tying Scottish Labour placards to lampposts with cable ties and string whilst we watched the guys the Tories had paid to do it for them swamp the place in half the time. It was debilitating and very clear that despite lacking the foot soldiers, there’s little the Tories can’t solve without throwing some money around.
In that election year, the Labour Party said to voters: “If you value it – vote for it.”
I was very fond of that election slogan and decided that it would be money well spent to have t-shirts made emblazoned with that slogan for the final days leading up to polling day. A small reward for activists who had put their life and soul into a hard fought campaign.
I took on the job of getting the t-shirts printed and phoned up a guy in an Edinburgh screen shop, asking for 20 red t-shirts with “Darling, vote Labour” on the front and “If you value it, vote for it” on the back.
Sadly, I cocked it up and when the t-shirts arrived we discovered that they read “If you value it, GO for it.” But we wore those t-shirts with pride because in a funny sort of way they embodied our team spirit and desire to work our hearts out for something we truly believed in.
That spirit exists in Labour Students and in Young Labour now. They are a community in their own right because they have to be. Because they spend so much time together and share so much in common.
They do have hierarchies, and those in positions of power have to earn those opportunities. Many go on to have careers in politics, whether that is as Councillors, or political researchers, or lobbyists for big charities and companies. Many more go onto to be the lawyers, engineers, doctors that they set out to be. Each finds their own way to make a contribution. Shouldn’t we value that instead of pillorying it as all that is wrong with the Labour Party?
And is it really a great injustice if one or two of the most talented, the most intelligent, engaging and inspiring sit on the green bench before their 30th birthday?
I’ve got a few questions for Disgruntled from Miseryguts. When was the last time you went leafleting? Used the virtual phone bank recently? How did you like spending your holidays in Glenrothes? Glasgow or Crewe? What is the contact creator code for Respect?
I know one Labour student who phone banks for 4 hours each week, every week. He probably speaks to 400 random strangers a month. I’d place a much higher value on his perceptions of the Labour Government’s popularity than “A Supporter’s” offerings.
These young activists are the life, blood and future of our party. They know how to make YouTube videos and write blogs – but they also know, from great experience, that nothing beats a well organised blitzing session with a passionate candidate with a powerful message for progress.
We know what opposition feels like in Scotland – and trust me, it’s not good for the party to be out of government for a while. Politicians are not all the same. A Labour Government does make a huge difference. And that difference is worth fighting for.
Kezia also blogs at Kezia Dugdale’s Soapbox.