Young Labour is changing. Next week in Liverpool, the Labour Party’s annual conference will ratify the outcomes of Refounding Labour, outcomes which will completely change the experience of young members in our party.
After months of consultation, debate and negotiation we are delighted to be able now to say that young members themselves have changed their movement for good. The last few weeks and even days, have been the most intense of the process however we are now able to confidently say that the package of measures for young members will the biggest change to the Labour Party’s youth wing in a generation and one of the most positive steps forward ever.
Young members of the Labour Party should feel welcomed and valued. This is why from now on, young members will receive a welcome pack when they join which contains key information about how they can get involved and which explains how the party works and what a lot of Labour jargon actually means. A new section of the training academy will be dedicated to young members which will provide training on issues such as campaigning on the doorstep, developing policy and how to become and fulfil the role of a youth officer in a CLP. The role of youth officer will be properly defined and supported. Youth officers will be provided with the training and resources necessary to help encourage activity amongst young members on a CLP level.
An over-arching theme of the changes proposed is the idea that Young Labour will no longer be bottom of the priority list for the party. The reinstatement of the ‘Vice Chair Youth’ position, a role given to an MP in order to represent our interests in the PLP and Parliament, really gives Young Labour a voice in that arena. However, in terms of giving Young Labour a voice in the party, by far the biggest change will be that from now on, Young Labour will have rights as if it were an affiliated organisation. This means that Young Labour will be able to send motions to national and regional conferences and also send delegates to these conferences who will then be able vote alongside the other affiliate section delegates. One of the most significant rights we have won is the ability to nominate candidates in any future leadership contest. This means that rather than being able to ignore the voice of young members, candidates will have to come and compete for the nomination of Young Labour, a very valuable prize for any aspiring leader. This rule regarding nominations will also apply to Scottish and Welsh leadership contests, as well as any future London Mayoral contest.
The most significant thing however that comes from having affiliate rights is the fact that from now on, Young Labour will have the right to debate and set its own autonomous policy, just like Labour Students. This policy will be set at Young Labour conference, which from now on will be an annual event as opposed to simply once every two years. Young Labour will be able to run campaigns based on the policy set by conference and will also be able to feed into the Labour party’s wider policy agenda through the NPF youth reps who from now on will be elected solely by young members.
Young Labour conference will be lead by the Young Labour National Committee and will be chaired primarily by the Chair of Young Labour. The complicated delegate system of Young Labour conference is also changing for the better. Rather than holding complicated and often unnecessary elections in the various regions, from now on any young member simply has to register online to attend. The capacity of Young Labour conference will also be expanded and from now on there will far greater explanation of how conference works and how delegates can get involved. CLPs will be encouraged to provide financial assistance to delegates and notice of the conference will be given long in advance so as to keep travel costs to a minimum. The liberation campaigns will be at the heart of Young Labour conference and a proper explanation of what the campaigns are and how they work will be provided for the benefit of those delegates who are perhaps not aware of how these work.
Young Labour National Committee will lead Young Labour. The committee is growing, with an under 19s rep, an international rep and two ordinary reps all being elected at Young Labour conference. Just like the Chair of the Young Fabians, the Chair of Co-op Party Youth will sit on the committee and in light of the larger committee; an extra trade union place will be created. Also, it will no longer be a requirement to be on the committee in order to stand for election as chair.
Some of Young Labour’s best work is done at a local and regional level and in order to reflect this, the role of regional rep and of youth rep on the regional boards should work with local Young Labour groups in order to encourage activity and engage with new members. Both of these positions will be elected at the same time by an OMOV ballot of young members in the region, with one position being reserved for a woman. The reserved position will of course switch each term.
Young Labour groups across the country should now receive greater support from the regional offices with a member of staff in each office being responsible for helping Young Labour operate. Links between Young Labour groups and local trade union youth sections will be encouraged and a full plan for cooperation and cross movement involvement between Young Labour and trade unions will be drawn up.
All of these things are not a shopping list, they are not demands or wishes, they are the concrete successes of the work that young members right across the country have done by helping to make the Refounding Labour process work for them. Now is the time for us all to put these things into action. It is time to look forward with a positive attitude and work to make Young Labour a movement of our own and of which the party can be proud. Ed Miliband needs Young Labour to be at the forefront of Labour’s new generation so that soon he can win in order to protect Britain’s next generation.