Why the Young Labour National Committee was right to make a leadership nomination
My report/blog on last night’s (04/08/2016) Young Labour National Committee meeting.
Tonight I attended my first ever phone in Young Labour National Committee meeting.It was an emergency meeting to firstly decide whether or not the Young Labour National Committee would make a supporting nomination and secondly, who that supporting nomination would be.
Given that the Labour Party is currently a divisive and nasty place to be, I think it should be pointed out that the meeting itself was civilised and comradely which is contrary to what has been widely reported. All meetings should be this civilised and comradely, we shouldn’t have to make the point that tonight’s meeting was exemplary.
We quickly got into the first discussion and that was whether or not we, as the Young Labour National Committee would make a supporting nomination in the leadership election. Some members of the committee argued that we should not because Young Labour is an open organisation that represents more than 60,000 people and if we voted for a candidate, some of them may feel excluded.
There are lots of issues with this argument. First, many of us were elected because we supported a particular candidate. Lets not skirt around the fact that the left has a massive majority on the Young Labour National Committee because we actually spoke to members directly and took no vote for granted and strategically organised to win. It seemed that it was easier to try and get people from the left to take a stance not to nominate someone, than it was to convince them to nominate Owen Smith.
Second, it was the committee members who made that decision. We are one part of Young Labour. This is not some kind of recommendation or whip to young members. It is simply members of the committee, who lets not forget, are all largely Corbyn supporters who were largely elected by people who support Corbyn, who voted in line with the mandate they were given. This leads to a point that was made about mandates by a member of the committee. He argued that, because our mandates are so small, we should just ignore them. Our mandates are small because we are not all elected through One Member One Vote and those of us who were elected through One Member One Vote did not have access to the membership lists of our region to directly contact members. In order to improve and increase mandates, we must have access to these vital campaigning tools.
Third, if young people do feel excluded from Young Labour, it probably isn’t because a few people in a room made a decision that they didn’t agree with. It’s because the structures of Young Labour within the party do not do enough to engage with young members. Whilst the YLNC are keen to hear the views of all young members across the party and consult with them, we are unable to do so directly because we do not have access to membership databases. All that we can do is promote things on social media. This is not a great way of doing things. We should be able to phone bank members to get their views, email them and organise events with them. We also do not have a budget for campaigning activities — for any funding we need we must apply for it through the NEC depending on how useful our NEC rep.
There were then arguments as to whether or not members should have been consulted. I made a point that consultations were only useful if the consultants were willing to publish results and vote according to the results of said consultation. We have been asked recently to undertake a number of consultations including the young labour review and whether or not our NEC rep Jasmin Beckett should vote for Jeremy Corbyn to automatically appear to be on the ballot. We have never seen the results of the Young Labour review and neither have we seen the results of Jasmin Beckett’s consultation. This was put down to the fact Jasmin might be subjected to abuse and also because of the number of responses she received (which was around 2500, she has clarified). Perhaps it was more apparent that the consultation did not go the way that Jasmin personally wanted it to, and so, she kept the results under wraps and indeed, how she voted at said NEC meeting. We will however, find out more when Jasmin publishes her report of the meeting.
It should also be noted that last year, the current chair of Labour Students Kate Dearden, sat on the Scottish Labour Students Committee that nominated Kezia Dugdale. Last summer, Kate supported this nomination and presumably supported Scottish Labour Student’s right to make a supporting nomination in last year’s . So why is it different now? Why is it different for the Young Labour National Committee? Presumably the same arguments that the Labour Students representatives made — that Young Labour should remain neutral for the sake of party unity-applied to last year’s Scottish Labour Leadership election? Presumably, it is one rule for nominating a candidate if you know it’s going to be for your preferred candidate, and another for if it isn’t going to be your preferred candidate.
The last point I’ll make is that addressing party unity. It shouldn’t be Young Labour’s responsibility as an organisation to maintain party unity. We have members as young as 14, making their first foray into politics. It is Young Labour’s responsibility as an organisation to provide a space for young members of the Labour Party to organise politically. Last night, the Young Labour National Committee as a political organisation made a political decision. There is nothing “disgusting” about this. It is a relative drop in the ocean compared to some of the things that have been happening in the party recently. It’s time to gain a sense of perspective about what is actually going on in the country. It is one of the most politically tumultuous times in British history. What impact is Young Labour making a supporting leadership nomination actually going to have on the wider political debate that is ongoing?
Additionally, what exactly is there to unite over at the moment? We are having ourselves on if we thought Young Labour making a supporting nomination or not was going to have some magical healing effect on the party. Our party is divided and factional at the moment. There is no skirting around these issues. We will always disagree on the direction the party should be going in, but we can unite over the things that we do agree on.
This brings me to the nomination itself. What I was expecting to be a painful experience was almost disappointingly civilised. Jeremy Corbyn was proposed by Max Shanly, Young Labour Ordinary Rep and Owen Smith was proposed by Craig Dawson, Young Labour North East Rep. Both members spoke well for their reasons for nominating their respective candidates, but it was really only Max who spoke about the qualities of his candidate. We then put it to a vote and it was 15 for Jeremy Corbyn, 8 for Owen Smith with three abstentions. Interestingly, the majority of those who voted for there not to be a nomination, voted for Owen Smith.
To conclude, the faux outrage directed towards the Young Labour National Committee for having the audacity to fulfil it’s democratic right to make a supporting nomination is just a bit risible, given that some of those who voted not to make a supporting nomination have supported other committees that they are members of decision to make a supporting nomination. There are much bigger issues today to divert your attention and anger into. You may not agree with the decision that the Young Labour committee made, but, that’s democracy. Not everyone is going to get what they want. By undertaking political votes, Young Labour can transform itself into an organisation that encourages debate and discussion — not shy away from it.
Lastly, to clarify my own position, I voted for there to be a leadership nomination, and as if you couldn’t guess from this very long blog, I voted for Young Labour to nominate Jeremy Corbyn.