Manchester Momentum: How we’re re-engaging students in the Labour Party

Young people are key to the success of Labour. That’s why at Manchester Momentum and Manchester Momentum Students, we are busy proactively engaging with students in preparation for a general election that could come at any moment. One of the most noted aspects of the 2017 general election was the so-called ‘youthquake’. The section of the electorate once dismissed as apathetic, disengaged and unlikely to turn out to vote came out in numbers large enough to confound the expectations of professional pollsters and pundits.

Labour’s stunning result in 2017 – the largest increase in the vote of any party in a single election since 1945 – was built off the back of young people. It isn’t hard to see why our party, with its anti-austerity message and politics of hope, resonated with this key demographic. Low wages, unstable employment and a deepening housing crisis are facts of life for Britain’s youth.

If you’re under 30, your entire adult life has been lived in the shadow of the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent economic slowdown. If you’re a student now or younger, austerity is all you have ever known. A decade of Tory government has seen attacks on youth centres and services, while an economy tipped towards financialised property speculation has seen spaces of cultural expression squeezed out of our towns and cities. In the face of this, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has been a glimmer of light for young people.

We cannot, however, afford to rest upon the laurels of 2017. Continuous engagement with communities has to sit at the heart of everything that Labour does, creating spaces of dialogue not just at election time but all year round. This is why the popular Unseat campaign days organised by Momentum and the creation of the community organising unit by Labour are so vital. As well as this, the trade unions, which are the bedrock of our movement, stand at the front line of day-to-day struggle against austerity and for better wages and conditions at work.

Here at Manchester Momentum, we are contributing in our way to the year-round presence and vibrancy of our movement. In addition to the the recent formation of our student wing, which is working continuously to engage students, at the end of the month we are organising ‘Prepare for Power’. The event on March 30th will featuring leading lights of our movement, from Owen Jones to Rebecca Long-Bailey. It is designed to mobilise activists and build the team that will be crucial to a general election victory.

To build for this, we have been running door-knocking sessions in Manchester’s student-heavy neighbourhoods, speaking to young people, ensuring they are registered to vote and encouraging them to get involved in our party. As the only Momentum group in the country to have a student branch, we see this as a top priority.

While the government is gridlocked over Theresa May’s catastrophic Brexit strategy, and the focus of the political class is on parliamentary games, we are acutely aware of one thing: our strength lies in our movement. Hundreds of thousands of people, willing to argue and campaign for the economic and social transformation that the UK so desperately needs. We don’t know when an election will come – but when it does, our movement will be ready.

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