Last month, the SKWAWKBOX revealed an anti-democratic move to disenfranchise huge numbers of ‘Young Labour’ (YL) members by imposing an ‘electoral college’ delegate system on YL’s annual conference. The change was claimed by Labour’s General Secretary Iain McNicol to have been proposed by YL, which YL’s committee subsequently vehemently denied. The change was left to the NEC’s largely right-dominated officers and looks certain to be pushed through.
Now YL’s National Committee has issued a strongly-worded statement against the move, signed by many YL members and CLP youth officers:
Young Labour National Committee members would like to make clear that the conference arrangements for the Young Labour Policy Conference in Autumn fall far short of what we expect for the members that we represent.
At every stage, there has been a lack of accountability and transparency. The proposal made in the name of Young Labour determining allocation of delegates was put forward to the National Executive Committee without there being any discussion on Young Labour National Committee about this; in fact we weren’t even told about it.
We are in a situation where Young Labour members, entitled to 101 delegates out of 303, will be a minority at their own conference to decide their own policy. We note that this is a much smaller number of delegates than at previous conferences, including Young Labour Conference in 2016. Instead of our conferences becoming larger and more inclusive to reflect our growing membership, young members are being shut out of participation in our organisation’s democratic structures.
What is further concerning is that Labour Students, a small affiliate of the Labour Party, is receiving equivalent representation to all young members, i.e. 101 delegates. By Labour Students’ own admission, they do not know how many people are members of their organisation. On a very basic level, a small affiliate of undetermined size should not have the same representation than all other affiliated organisations put together. We also note that many members of Labour Students are already Young Labour members and therefore are already represented in Young Labour, which is disproportionately student-dominated.
Furthermore, under the current arrangement, delegates from Labour Students will have no democratic legitimacy. Each club, regardless of how many members it has, is going to be allocated two delegates on a first come, first serve basis. This means a club consisting of only a person and their dog, providing it is registered as a University or college Labour Society, will have the same number of votes as a club with hundreds of members. As opposed to setting out any provisions for running democratic elections for delegates during university vacation period, delegate places for clubs will be first come, first serve.
The process for attending Conference as a delegate from a Labour Club is effectively that of attending a Beyoncé concert, eagerly refreshing your web browser to make sure you’re the first one to get there, as opposed to a serious democratic process in which you are elected to represent your club’s views at Conference.
To add to conference arrangements that are already deeply restrictive and limit
engagement, people will be permitted to be dual or even triple delegates (i.e. be Labour Students, Trade Union and Young Labour delegates simultaneously). This further depletes a very limited supply of delegate spaces for Young Labour members.
Young Labour National Committee members believe these arrangements represent a stifling of a democratic and welcoming culture in our youth wing, and calls on young members to campaign with us for Young Labour Conferences which are autonomously organised by representatives who are democratically accountable to our movement.
This measure, sprung on the NEC under false pretences and imposed by bypassing any democratic process within YL, seems to have as its primary aim the continued presence of a right-wing, unrepresentative Young Labour member on the party’s national NEC to thwart the wishes of the vast majority of members.
It needs to be reversed immediately.
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