Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Why the walkout at Labour Students was wrong

There has been much debate with the Labour community – and indeed mainly in Labour Students members – about whether One Member One Vote would be better for our democracy and credibility in the youth structures of the party.

Whilst OMOV is a controversial issue that needs to be addressed, it is also fair to point out the issue with the way the issue was addressed by its main supporters. The walkout, though noble, was detrimental to their campaign and bad for Labour Students as a whole.

The debate started long before the Labour Students National Conference when the Steering committee blocked three motions supporting OMOV put forward by York, Salford and Hull from even being debated at conference. The Labour clubs which supported this – of which there were 11 in total – then published an open letter on LabourList threatening to disaffiliate if there was not a proper debate on OMOV.

Following this, a motion was submitted by Hull’s Labour club criticising the National Committee, saying that they should not have the right to vet motions and control what is debated at conference. The proposing debate was put forward and opposing debates ensued, at which point delegates and other attendees from OMOV-supporting institutions staged a walkout. After the vote was held, the motion fell by only a small majority.

The irony for me, as a non-delegate who agreed with the motion, was that had the walkout not taken place, the motion would probably have passed – the sheer numbers of those who walked out were more than enough to win the motion.

Those who walked out were supposed to be trying to empower me and other non-delegates who didn’t have a voice on motion debates and officer elections. But I felt let down on behalf of the 6000 Labour Students members who can’t vote by the OMOV-supporting delegates who chose not to vote at all. Publicity stunts have their place, but not in this instance.

My reasons for supporting One Member One Vote are same as Ed Miliband’s, who is doing the very same for the Labour party as a whole. It’s important for our democracy that everyone has a say in the organisation they belong to; it will turn the Labour party into a community party in which leadership elections have the same energy as primaries in the US. It makes more people want to join the party.

I understand why OMOV was removed from Labour Students, in the 1980s, when entryist Trotskyites (who don’t really stand for the same values that we do) tried to infiltrate the Labour party and take it over for their own arrogant means. But we have a different Labour party now, especially since the era of New Labour, in which that is no longer a worry.

One Member One Vote is backed by people like Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson and opposed by the likes of Tony Benn. Not having OMOV in Labour Students allows any clique – not just anti-Trotskyite moderates – to dominate the party.

The problem with the walkout at conference was that it was counter-productive, self-defeating and

Jake decided not to finish this comment piece as he chose to make a stand against his own article. He felt a literary walkout was the best and most effective way to actually persuade people that the content of his article was interesting, although some may argue that he would have actually made a better case if he had been there to write it.