Bullying, intimidation and walkouts – A review of Young Labour and Labour Students’ conferences

by Cameron Beavan-King

The Labour Students conference began the Friday before last with a co-ordinated effort by several clubs, threatening disaffiliation over the issue of One Member One Vote (OMOV) for elections to the Labour Students National Committee.

In the run-up to conference, the clubs had sent a letter protesting the decision by Steering and the National Committee to block three motions asking for a further debate on OMOV at conference. However, as delegates had already voted on this issue at National Council and agreed not to discuss it until after 2015, the three motions were blocked.

This tension continued into the conference with a mass walkout by several clubs over this issue and a poorly worded motion in favour of stopping censorship and inference from National Council. The motion as a whole would have done nothing to progress their aims and was rightly voted down by the remaining delegates after the walkout.

It is important to note that the walkout was bound up in the politics of Labour students – it was led by supporters of Tom Phipps for National Secretary, though Tom did not walk out himself.

To be brutally honest, I cannot see what the walkout or the whole disaffiliation threat will achieve at all, other than dividing us in the crucial run-up to 2015.

I cannot understand what we will achieve as a divided organisation. On the back of our membership cards, it said “Through our common endeavours we achieve more than we achieve alone.”

We should honour this and pull together for 2015 to remove a reactionary right-wing Conservative government with a disdain for all of us. I deeply hope we can move past our differences and focus on what matters to all of us and pull behind Fin as she leads to us into 2015.

I have little time for those who will not stand with us and choose to leave the strongest political student organisation in the country, other than NUS. It is petty and undeserving of the some of the great clubs which have threatened to leave.

Politics and history are made by the people in the room, taking responsibility and working together, not grandstanding by walking out.

More positively for Labour Students, we elected our new national committee to take us into 2015 and coordinate us in delivering a Labour government with Ed Miliband as prime minister. We also got through a raft of motions, my particular highlight being the motion to renationalise the railways, which is a pragmatic solution for Blairites and Bennites alike.

As a dramatic Labour Students drew to a close, we moved swiftly into Young Labour, and what would prove to be a weekend with some interesting results.

We were addressed by Harriet Harman, and much like Angela Eagle at Labour Students, she gave us a rousing call to arms to make history and deliver a Labour government in 2015.

The most contentious issue at Young Labour was certainly the debate on the Collins Review and the vote on how we should mandate our delegates to vote at the special conference.

The debate was opened by the Labour Representation Committee’s Youth Officer- Tom Butler- who gave a fiery speech against these reforms. While I can certainly attest that this debate was passionate, it was one also of the worst and inaccessible debates I have ever taken part in.

It was factional and on the whole disrespectable to people of an opposing opinion. I commend Simon Darvill’s cool in the face of difficult circumstances. But I was truly shocked by the attitudes of some people in this debate.

I was shocked that they believe it is okay to intimidate people to vote against these reforms and it was the anti-Collins faction which was most culpable, causing several delegates to break down and leave Young Labour.

The whole atmosphere of the debate and the subsequent vote and recounts was toxic, with delegates attacking other delegates on Twitter simply for who their employer was. I would not have appreciated it if anyone used my membership of particular internal pressure groups as a means of attack on me for supporting these reforms.

The vote eventually ended at 109-107 in favour of rejecting the Collins Review and mandating our delegates to vote against it last weekend’s special conference. The issue of the atmosphere at the debate was debated further at the liberation caucuses the next day.

Looking back, this vote should have been completed through a secret ballot to truly allow for a ‘safe-space’ for independent voting, and to protect individuals from the disgusting intimidation meted out by some other delegates in the room.

Other than the Collins Debate, there was the first ever written motions debate at a Young Labour conference, leading to the left reasserting themselves with a series of extreme proposals.

One such proposal was the idea of a 10% one-off super tax on the wealth of the 10% wealthiest in the country. While I can see the principle behind this, it is completely unworkable and requires Britain’s undesirable withdrawal from the European Union. Other motions included a proposal for a mass house building programme, which included the abolition of the Right to Buy.

I myself however felt compelled to vote against the motion. I do not believe that abolishing such a popular policy would deliver a Labour government or even the ‘bold socialist policies’ which some delegates wish to see implemented.

The weekend as a whole was a turbulent affair. I was and still am deeply displeased with the naive move to the left by those who want to repeal the progress made under the last Labour government.

In order to win in 2015, we must have a united and strong Labour Students spending money on campaigning and not bureaucracy. We must have a Young Labour campaigning from the progressive centre-ground and supporting Labour in securing a majority in 2015. We must have a Labour Party which seeks to govern for all our people with a progressive One Nation manifesto.

Cameron Beavan-King is a Young Labour and Labour Students activist

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11 Responses to “Bullying, intimidation and walkouts – A review of Young Labour and Labour Students’ conferences”

  1. John. Reid says:

    If Len Mcklusky supported the proposals why did he get his lot to vote against, including Dagenham young ?Labour, and then why Did Alex Halligan gloat about it on Facebook afterwards,

  2. BenM says:

    “One such proposal was the idea of a 10% one-off super tax on the wealth of the 10% wealthiest in the country. While I can see the principle behind this, it is completely unworkable and requires Britain’s undesirable withdrawal from the European”

    Leave aside the rights or wrongs of the proposal (seems a bit bonkers to me) I can’t see this falling foul of EU law. The EU only has jurisdiction over VAT and cross border excise duties.

  3. Matt Wardman says:

    What is a “liberation caucus” when it a home, please?

  4. Cameron Beavan-King says:

    BenM – You have to accept the free movement of capital in the European Union

    Matt Wardman –

    A liberation caucus is a group of self-defining members who are from a typically oppressed/disadvantaged group in a society, for example in Labour we have 4 groups. The latter are LGBT+, Women, BAME and Disabilities. We also have Under19s but they are technically classed as a liberation group. They are very important things to have in our organisation.

  5. SamF says:

    ‘Right to buy’ is hardly that much of a popular policy, people were only slightly in favour of it in the polling after Thatcher’s death. I don’t think we should abolish it but I certainly we think we should embark on a large house-building programme.

    And spare us of the irony of complaining about Progress being bullied. Progress bully, the unions bully and just about any other faction with enough clout does. That’s just how factional infighting is. Not pleasant but a reality.

  6. John reid says:

    SamF, a link to this right to buy wasnt popular, I’ve never heard so much nonsense

  7. SamF says:

    John, I never said it wasn’t popular. I was disagreeing with Cameron’s point that it was ‘such a popular policy’. Here is the YouGov polling after her death showing 21% of those polled said Right to Buy was one of Thatcher’s greatest achievements and 22% (including 20% of Conservative voters) saying it was one of her biggest failings. http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/jx8g4k4srj/YouGov-Sun-results-Thatcher-legacy-130409.pdf

    On this basis, I do not think it should be considered a hugely popular policy in terms of public support for it. Of course, if we are talking uptake of council housing stock then of course it was very popular, but the impression I got from Cameron was that was a question of public support. Apologies if I misinterpreted this.

  8. John Reid says:

    Lol.the Question was what were her two three best achievement,s well of course winning 3 elections,or the Falklands, or the miner strike,or being the first female P.M were going to be more popular that buying council homes,in fact the result was 29% of Tory voters!felt that was still her best achievement,

    The actions of YL can be summed up in 10 words

    Loony left use Trotskyite means to try to re infiltrate labour

  9. John Reid says:

    I see the buying Back council homes has been brought back from the 1983 manifesto
    Becuase that policy wasn’t SUCSESSFUL even if Tony Benns said it Wasn’t left wing enough, a away to justify it,

  10. SamF says:

    Good of you to ignore the large amount of people who disliked it but fine, whatever.

    In the meantime, learn to proofread your comments and keep enjoying your McCarthyism.

    See you later.

  11. John reid says:

    The large mount of people who didn’t like,it yeah a few good 1000′ and by me saying a thatcher it was McCarthyism?, is it, I blogged on a IPad, so shoot me,

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