Statement on Young Labour National Committee Nomination of Jeremy Corbyn for Leader of the Labour Party

Tonight, Young Labour National Committee voted 15 to 8 (three abstentions) to give Jeremy Corbyn a supportive nomination. I, in my capacity as London representative, have voted for Young Labour to make a nomination and then to endorse Owen Smith.

Since the meeting, social media has erupted in a discussion on Young Labour democracy and unity in our youth wing. I would like to address a couple of points.

At the start of the meeting we had a vote on whether we should nominate at all. I voted FOR having a nomination because I believe that Young Labour as a political youth organisation should have an opinion and should be proud to express it. My biggest frustration in the last six months on committee was that Young Labour often feels more like a token committee than anything else. Unlike Labour Students, who have three Full Time Officers in Labour HQ, Young Labour committee members have very little influence over the direction the organisation takes. The (unelected) youth officer, a member of Labour Party staff, has more influence over our events and the way we communicate with our membership than any of the committee, including our national chair. This was a rare opportunity to make being a member of Young Labour committee count for something more than just having nice photo ops every couple of months with a Shadow Cabinet member.

As I understand, people find two things especially controversial: one is the fact that endorsing a candidate for the leadership goes against party unity; the second is that Young Labour has not consulted their membership on how to vote.

Firstly, whilst I appreciate that we are in a difficult situation in our Party, I do not believe that just shying away from taking a majority agreed position equals unity. Similarly, unity does not mean to agree on everything. It does however mean treating each other respectfully. There is certainly a problem with harassment and bullying within Young Labour. I have myself been subject to it, so have many other members of the committee and the wider membership. We need to tackle the problem right-on. Choosing to not endorse a candidate would not bring more or less unity to the organisation, I think it would have absolutely zero impact because it would not make the problems we face go away. It’s not that simple.

Secondly, consulting our membership is hardly possible. As London representative, I am not able to send communication directly from me to my members. I can try to speak to staff in the London Labour Party regional office or ask our Youth Officer to send out a newsletter on my behalf — but in recent months, this has been very difficult. Local Party staff were busy with first the mayoral election and then the EU referendum. There was hardly an opportunity for London Young Labour to get their newsletters out. And if they went out, they were usually heavily edited.

Nevertheless, I was the only member of committee who tried to consult with London members. I put up a simple Google Forms survey asking members on their views. I have promoted the survey as wildly as I can through my Facebook page, Twitter and the London Young Labour Facebook group. The problem with the survey was that I had no way of verifying if the person filling it in was in fact a London Young Labour member or if there’d been multiple submissions from the same person. Members have picked up on this and asked me if the results of the survey were binding. I clarified that I was aware of the problems and would not regard the survey as binding because of that. I was more looking for different arguments and get a feel for what the membership wanted. Reading the responses members submitted made me realise that the most important thing for me as London rep for after the contest iis to work as hard as possible to address concerns on both sides, no matter what the outcome of the election is, to restore trust in each other and overcome this terrible division that is currently holding our Party back.

I’m not pleased that this is the best I could do and in a decision as big as this I would have preferred to ballot young members and then vote accordingly. As long as Young Labour has not got the mechanisms to do so, my personal judgement is all we’ve got. So far, I have put effort into being open and transparent in my role and was always up for debate. I will continue to do so for the rest of my term on Young Labour National committee and would encourage all members who feel that the structures of YL need to be overhauled and the democratic deficit should be tackled to get in touch and have a chat — I’m interested to hear your suggestions and ideas.

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