Young Labour descends into early 80’s style infighting

by Renie Anjeh

The events that took place in Bradford last weekend should be a warning for every young member in the party.

Acrimonious divisions and infighting at the heart of Young Labour were exposed, something that was very disheartening for young activists across the country.  I have to confess that I did not attend the conference because it was too expensive but the fact that a vocal minority have successfully managed to embarrass Young Labour members should be of grave concern for us all.

One of the big issues was the rather obvious matter of Labour Students and OMOV.  This has often been the topic of heated discussion in certain Young Labour circles. Personally, I think that Labour Students have other priorities but I also accept that there may well be a case for OMOV to be discussed and it is not unreasonable for people to want that debate.

However, what is completely objectionable is the sheer hypocrisy of some people on the Left who constantly attack Labour Students not having OMOV when their house is not in order.   Trade union reps on Young Labour National Committee are not elected by OMOV and they have often been elected unopposed due to their ‘support’ from union officials rather than young trade unionists.  How on earth is that fair or democratic?

Many of the people, who boycotted Labour Students meetings and threatened to disaffiliate from Labour Students over the issue of OMOV, voted against OMOV for Labour leadership elections.  It just goes to show that for all their faux outrage, their commitment to OMOV is skin deep.

It’s about time the Left are honest that their real problem is not OMOV, or even Labour Students, but about their disdain for moderates in the party.

There is also the issue about the activities of certain young trade unionists.  Trade unions play an important role not just in our party but in wider society, which is why more young people should get involved in the trade union movement.

However, questions have been asked by young members about the activity of certain trade unionists.  Before the Young Labour Conference, TULO hosted a meeting in Bradford which was supposed to be open to young trade unionists in the party.

I suspect that many would have benefitted from the experience but unfortunately it the meeting was only for a select group and the meeting was not advertised on social media.  Also, there are concerns that certain people were paid by Unite and other unions to go to Conference which sounds great but it wasn’t available for all young trade unionists.

Imagine for a second if Progress paid for a selected group of young members to go to Conference and organised a secret meeting before it began?

There’d be outrage and the Left would be the first to complain about “Sainsbury’s millions” and “neoliberal entryists”.

The really disappointing news was the fact that conference voted to oppose the Collins Review by 109 to 107.  Initially, the conference supported the reforms by a margin of 103 to 100 but according to witnesses, there were calls for a recount from the Left and then the eventual decision was made.

Had the vote on the Collins Review gone their way in the first place, would the Left have called for recount? Probably not. Many people have said that the atmosphere in the room was far from comfortable.

Cameron Beavan-King, a young member from Birmingham, told me how the behaviour of some on the Left “drove away” first-time attendees.  Another young member said that people were driven to tears because of the intimidation tactics, bullying and heckling.

One friend of mine, who is supportive of the principles of the Collins Review, said that he could not vote for it because he feared that the Left would have “crucified him.”  This kind of behaviour should have no place in our party.

What I find extremely strange is that very few trade union reps made the case for Ed Miliband’s reforms even though all the unions have backed them – in fact the GMB and Unite reps did not support the proposals in the vote.

Although the decision made last weekend will no impact on what happens on Saturday, this kind of behaviour puts the entire youth wing of the party into disrepute.

I am glad that motions were passed on issues such as statutory sex and relationship education, political education in schools and promotion of the living wage.  It is reassuring that at least some people put forward serious policy proposals but some of our “comrades” were eager to take a trip back to the 1980s and write their own version of ‘the longest suicide note in history’, and worryingly, Conference seemed open to indulging them.

One motion passed was a 10% super tax on the top 10% of earners.  This is not just an economically illiterate idea that would jeopardise jobs and investment but it would be a punitive tax on teachers, nurses, policemen, doctors, tube drivers – many of whom are trade unionists!

Then there was the motion to increase housing debt, introduce 1970’s-style rent caps and abolish Right to Buy.

This policy proposal came from a certain Conrad Landin who is a leading light of the Young Labour left and has the privilege of being a member of Young Labour National Committee.

During his tenure as a committee member, he has not organised a campaign day for the region that he represents, which means that Young Labour have not been campaigning in fourteen target seats – including Harlow, Stevenage, Great Yarmouth and Ipswich.

However, he still has time to practice his Tony Benn tribute act and regularly gallivants around the TV studios claiming to be the voice of the ‘Labour grassroots’.

It’s unsurprising that Landin is reluctant to hold a campaign day in his region seeing as swing voters in Essex would run a mile given his ludicrous ideas

It’s time that Conrad Landin stops grandstanding and organises a campaign day in his region.

Young Labour is at its best when it is a diverse group of people from different backgrounds and with different opinions but the good name young activists should not be besmirched by a vocal minority.

Members who tirelessly campaign for the party should not expect to be the subject of abuse for speaking their mind.  Some people have a choice to make: they can either help campaign for a Labour victory in 2015 or they could try and risk the credibility of Young Labour.  I hope they choose the former not the latter.

Renie Anjeh is a Labour party activist

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5 Responses to “Young Labour descends into early 80’s style infighting”

  1. John reid says:

    I heard this from a very reliable source,who also blogs, and although those motions won by 2 votes every time, a Facebook friend of min Alex Halligan has told me that the Unions of Unite GMB, didn’t pay £150 for a coach to get their chosen ones down in bulk to vote on mass, I’ve asked our local YL member Chris, to give us report on Saturdays I don’t know who to believe,
    Pbut I would say that London Young Labours chair, who was supposed to Be Ed Milibands representative, in voting against the Collins eye forms, has done Ed M, no favours, and if Jon Cruddas is supposed to be dividing Labours policies, then I don’t think yL’s attitude has done him any favours, either.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “Imagine for a second if Progress paid for a selected group of young members to go to Conference and organised a secret meeting before it began?”

    They did, it’s called Labour Students Conference.

  3. John reid says:

    The real problem is since 1994′ when Young socialists changed it’s name to young Labour and went from being a gathering of the left of the parties. Young members to it being a beacon of New Labour,the left have never forgiven the move and have used Union Barons money to buy their way back,I’ve never been in Young socialists as it was in my day,or in progress,but I’ve observed that the New Labour project wasn’t interested in Young Labour and what ever people say about Progress ETAL, using Sainsburys money to get training frothier chosen candidates,Young Labour never had money from Progress or any other Blairite think tank ,Try to buy influence,the way the unions did last week,

  4. Crimea River says:

    ‘1970’s-style rent caps’

    What are ‘1970’s-style rent caps’ and how do they differ from 1960’s-style rent caps or 2010’s-style rent caps or, for that matter, the rent caps that presently exist in a number of major cities and countries around the world?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Renie wasn’t even at Youth Conference.

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