Here’s an article I wrote for this morning’s Times Red Box.
Most people don’t think politics is for them. I accept that I am the exception. While I was doing my GCSEs, I realised the charity work I was doing could have much more of an impact if supported by the last government. I joined under Gordon Brown and went to university shortly after Ed Miliband become leader. In 2013 I was elected as the youth representative on Labour’s National Executive Committee. In the three years that followed I toured 75 marginal seats and worked my socks off for a different result last May. I genuinely believe that it is the poorest and the youngest losing most under this Tory government and, as long as we fight among ourselves in the Labour Party, we are failing them.
Since the ominous exit poll in May, the party I love has become divided and turned inward on itself.
Sadly, this weekend, the youth conference to elect my successor has reflected that divisive atmosphere. Upset and heartache have been in abundance. Both sides are claiming foul play. The truth is this: no member should feel intimidated or unsafe at a Young Labour event. Rather than abolishing the compliance unit, as some have suggested, it should have the resources to investigate complaints from all quarters, and members should have confidence in its ability to do so. Adherence to the rules is one thing, but there is a big job to do to change the culture that exists too and it should not be avoided.
We should be supporting and empowering all our members – not allowing bullying and harassment to take place or party members’ say to be taken away from them.
We should be giving all of our members – and the wider public – a meaningful say in our policy. Labour’s members are more than just votes in a leadership election, and their expertise and ideas should be harnessed. In recent months the opposite has been attempted. Parts of Labour’s National Executive Committee have tried to reduce the votes of 9.3 million Britons and the say of our 300,000 party members to a clique of 30 people at the top of the party. I have proudly stood up against this nonsense.
My successor will have to do the same. Last night it was confirmed that Jasmin Beckett will take my seat on Labour’s executive committee. She is a breath of fresh air: a working class woman from a council estate in Liverpool who understands the problems so many people in Britain face. Her result shows support across all parts of the youth movement: young members, students and young trade unionists. I wish her every success. It’s a credit to young members that all the leaders of our youth movement – including the chairs of both Young Labour and Labour Students – are now occupied by brilliant women.
I have focused my time on Labour’s executive on fighting for young women in the party. I have fought for better sex and relationship education, against youth homelessness, for a cross-government strategy for tackling violence against women and against domestic violence. I have fought for votes at 16, political education and more opportunities for women to get involved in politics. While there is still so much to do – and I hope I can continue to contribute on Labour’s NEC – it is time for a new generation to lead the change within Labour’s youth movement.