Tuesday, 25 February 2014

My Thoughts on Labour Students and Young Labour Conference

Labour Students conference began after a coordinated effort by several clubs threatening disaffiliation over the issue of One Member One Vote (OMOV) for elections to the Labour Students National Committee. The exact reason for the letter was the decision by Steering and the National Committee to block 3 motions asking for a further debate on OMOV at conference. However as delegates had already voted on this issue at National Council and agreed not to discuss it until after 2015, the 3 motions were blocked. This tension continued into the conference with a mass walkout by several clubs over this very issue and their poorly worded motion in favour of stopping censorship and inference from National Council. However the motion as a whole would have done nothing to progress their aims and was rightly voted down by the remaining delegates after the walkout. It is important to note that the walkout was by supporters of Tom Phipps for National Secretary, though Tom did not walk out himself.

To be brutally honest, I cannot see what the walkout or the whole disaffiliation threat will achieve at all, other than dividing us in the crucial run up to 2015. I cannot understand what we will achieve as a divided organisation. On the back of our membership cards, it said “Through our common endeavours we achieve more than we achieve alone.” We should honour this and pull together for 2015 to remove a reactionary right-wing Conservative government with a distain for all of us. I deeply hope we can move past our differences and focus on what matters to all of us and pull behind Fin as she leads to us into 2015!
I have little time for those who will not stand with us and choose to leave strongest political student organisation in the country other than NUS. It is petty and undeserving of the some of the great clubs which have threatened to leave. Politics and history is made by the people in the room and those not in the room will be left out.

In other matters at Labour Students, we elected our new national committee to take us into 2015 and coordinate us in delivering a Labour Government with Ed Miliband as Prime Minister. We also got through a raft of motions, my particular highlight was the motion to renationalise the railways, which is a pragmatic solution for Blairites and Bennites alike.

As a dramatic Labour Students drew to a close, we moved swiftly into Young Labour and what would prove to be a weekend with some interesting results. We were addressed by Harriet Harmon, much like Angela Eagle at Labour Students,she gave us a rousing call to arms to make history and deliver a Labour government in 2015.

The most contentious issue at Young Labour was certainly the debate on the Collins Review and the vote on how we should mandate our delegates to vote at the special conference next week. The debate was opened by the Labour Representation Committee’s Youth Officer, Tom Butler giving a passionate speech against these reforms. While I can certainly comment that this debate was passionate, it was one of the worst and inaccessible debates I have ever taken part in. It was factional and on the whole disrespecting to people of an opposing opinion. I commend Simon Darvill’s cool in the face of difficult circumstances. I was truly shocked by the attitudes of some people in this debate. I was shocked that they believe it is okay to intimidate people to vote against these reforms and it was the anti-Collins faction which in the most part was disrespectful and caused several delegates to break down and not return to Young Labour. The whole atmosphere of the debate and the subsequent vote and recounts was toxic with delegates attacking other delegates on twitter simply for who their employer was. I would not have appreciated it if anyone used my membership of particular internal pressure groups as a means of attack on me for supporting these reforms. The vote eventually ended at 109-107 in favour of rejecting the Collins Review and mandating our delegates to vote against it next week at special conference. The issue of the atmosphere at the debate was debated further at the liberation caucuses the next day. I firmly believe that this vote should have been completed through a secret ballet to truly allow for a ‘safe-space’ for people to vote in a way which they want to and not be subject to disgusting intimidation from other delegates in the room.

Other than the Collins Debate, there was the first ever written motions debate at a Young Labour conference, which it can be fairly assured the left reasserted themselves with a series of extreme proposals. One such proposal was the idea of a 10% one off super tax on the wealth of the 10% wealthiest in the country. While I can see the principle behind this it is completely unworkable and requires Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, as we cannot withdraw nor should we withdraw from the free movement of capital. Other motions, included a proposal for a mass house building programme, which included the abolition of the Right to Buy. Due to the failure of an amendment to not abolition Right to Buy, I was forced by my conscious to vote against the motion, as I do not believe that abolishing, such a popular policy will deliver a Labour Government or even the ‘bold socialist policies’ which some delegates whish to see implemented. I took a certain amount of comic value from the 'bold socialist policies motion'.

The weekend as a whole was a turbulent affair. I am deeply displeased with the unpragmatic move to the left by those who want to repeal the progress made under the last Labour Government. In order to win in 2015, we must have a united and strong Labour Students spending money on campaigning and not bureaucracy. We must have a Young Labour campaigning from the progressive centre-ground and supporting Labour in securing a majority in 2015. We must have a Labour Party, which seeks to govern for all our people with a One Nation manifesto for progress from the centre-ground which appeals to all our of people.


  1. If picking out grammar and spelling takes precedence over sentiment, then you might want to rethink the "there poorly worded motion" bit

  2. I'm afraid that Simon Darvill had less of a cool face during the debate and more of a rage face whilst shouting and to be honest being a lot more intimidating than the hecklers who just wanted a secret ballot as it is a lot more democratic and accessible. You have no choice but to heckle when he was shouting us down. It was beyond embarrassing for him. You are right that we have to unite to move forward but its hard to unite when you have a dictator in the form of Simon Darvill.

  3. I don't think he is a dictator. He is democratically elected by members of Young Labour. I agree though there should be a more formal structure of processes for the debate. I thought the motions went a lot better.

    1. Yeah motions were better except for the hand vote. He is elected by the select few who can attend, not by OMOV. Also just because someone is elected doesn't mean that they don't turn into a bit of a dictator...

  4. I wasn't at Labour Students conference, but I genuinely felt the Young Labour conference went well, yes people did put pressure on people to vote certain ways, but I can't help but think that that's part of the nature of politics, and frankly nothing compared to some of the things I've seen/heard in CLP meetings. That said, I do take the point that we should be respectful, and that we do not want to intimidate anyone, especially the younger members.
    I must admit, I don't think the usually very calm and level-headed Simon, didn't cover himself in glory, and I do think that a secrete ballot would have been wiser on close votes.
    I noticed that the result of the Right to Buy vote wasn't announced on the second day, which was perhaps wise considering how close it looked (I heard a rumor that it was defeated by 2 votes).
    Anyway, weather you think it good or bad, those votes were passed. I do think these internal debates among our youth movement are healthy for democracy, but as you have identified the most important thing is that we are united going into 2015, the thing we all want is Ed Miliband, not David Cameron in downing street the morning after the next general election.

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    2. I've never actually said the walkout was about left or right but I can't see what it will achieve.