by Amanda Ramsay
By starting the process of Refounding Labour, Ed Miliband has made much of rebuilding the party, making it more open to new members and to a broader section of society; welcome news then of the launch this month of Bristol Young Labour.
While experience of life and party politics is invaluable from older members, it is encouraging that enough young people in the city want to give their time and energy in outreach work and political engagement.
They offer the party the opportunity to refresh our politics in an age of disaffection and apathy
Young Labour is open to 14 to 26 year olds and brings voting privileges and access to events and activities that being an armchair supporter will never offer.
“Timings have worked out well for us,” explained Stephen Fulham, who chaired the launch event.
“Setting-up Young Labour alongside a mayoral election provides motivation and opportunities for members that would not otherwise be possible.
The mayoral election in Bristol on 15 November has regional and national significance and we’re networking with Young Labour groups around the country who want to help support Marvin Rees, Labour’s candidate to be the first directly elected mayor.”
Bristol Young Labour aims to engage young people across Bristol in the work of the Labour party and to reflect the diversity of young people within society.
“Simply put, Young Labour is the future of the party,” emphasises Fulham, a founding committee member of Bristol Young Labour.
“Young members are going to be our voters, activists, candidates, MPs and Cabinet Ministers one day – it is vital that the party makes sure they are supported.”
And listened to, I add.
“The relative independence of Young Labour from the main party is very creative. Even at our first social, candidates and activists debated policy in a way which would be alien to some structures of our party.”
With various FE colleges, Bristol University and the University of West England, Bristol has a vibrant student culture and produced political campaigner Jemima Khan, now associate editor of the Independent newspaper.
Phil Jardine also spoke at the launch of Bristol Young Labour, telling how local members took political activity literally to the streets earlier this year, with a successful sleep out for St Mungo’s homeless charity, to raise awareness about homelessness, which is now a Young Labour national priority campaign.
But it’s certainly not all just about students, this new group want to reach young people in training and young people both in and out of work.
As part of Refounding Labour, Young Labour members are given the scope and power to decide their own policy positions, not just discuss issues. Positions can be taken by the National Policy Forum (NPF) by the NPF Youth Reps.
Kye Dudd, just elected yesterday to the Communication Workers Union (CWU) NEC, highlighted the effective work being undertaken by thousands of CWU Youth members: “we’re working closely with NGOs and charities, such as Unite Against Fascism to campaign for social justice and hold fundraising events. I want to see more campaigning against poverty.”
He was at the launch event and with homelessness on the increase in Bristol, Dudd stressed the importance of focussing on youth homelessness: “This must be a priority as a local and national campaign for Young Labour and it is important to work with the likes of Crisis, Shelter and Centrepoint.”
“The relationship between young people and politics seems to be getting worse,” John Gibby, Bristol South member tells me. “It’s important that young people are shown that no matter what your age – even if you can’t vote – you can still make a difference and have a say in how you are governed and make a positive contribution to society in many other ways as well. Bristol Young Labour is a brilliant way for young people to do all these things.”
Membership is just £1 a month for youth or £12 a year for 20-26 year olds, just £1 for 14-19 year olds to join. Anyone who wants to join Bristol Young Labour can get in touch with Stephen Fulham via firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @stephenfulham.
Amanda Ramsay is vice-chair of Pragmatic Radicalism, a former councillor and development officer of Bristol South Labour party