Jasmin Beckett: What I Will Do For Young Labour

By Jasmin Beckett/@Jasmin_Beckett


Last Saturday, when I was elected Labour’s NEC Youth Rep, was one of the proudest moments of my life. As a working class woman from Liverpool, getting involved in Young Labour has been transformative for me. It has allowed me a space in which to channel my anger about the inequalities and injustice I grew up seeing all around me as well as giving me friends and opportunities I will cherish for the rest of my life. Working with the fantastic new Chair of Young Labour, Caroline Hill, and the rest of the newly elected Young Labour committee, it is our job over the next two years to make sure that everyone’s experience of Young Labour is as positive as mine has been.

Young Labour has never had as much press attention as it has received in the last week. The problem is it has been for all the wrong reasons. In the past few years, our young members have been at the centre of some of the Labour Party’s best campaigning. Thousands of our activists were out on the doors in the run up to the General Election, whether it was Labour Students on their ‘Team Fightback’ tour of key seats, or through the hard work of Labour Young Trade Unionists, without young activists we would never have got rid of Tories like Esther McVey last May.

It’s not just out on the doors where Young Labour has led the way. It was our activists who set up the Labour Campaign for Mental Health, who pushed our MP’s to support Sex and Relationships Education in schools and ensured that our policies, such as votes at 16, were in the Labour Party manifesto. Young members consistently show the very best of our party, and we have a huge amount to be proud of. However, last weekend at Conference we failed at our most basic level.

Young Labour events should be vibrant political spaces where everyone, no matter their ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality or disability feels able to contribute and express themselves in a safe environment. Unfortunately, as a movement we fell well short this weekend. Never again should members be ignored, or spoken over or shut out of the debate. As NEC Youth Rep, I’ll fight every day to build a Young Labour that is accessible to all and be your voice to make sure the wider Labour party is too.

Culture change shouldn’t just be limited to youth events. As Huda said in her incredibly brave speech last Sunday, just having representatives on committees isn’t liberation, it is tokenism. As a white woman, I can never truly understand what our BAME members faced last weekend. As NEC Youth Rep I am looking forward to working with Faduma, our new YL BAME officer, and other activists from Labour’s BAME campaign, as well as our other liberation campaigns, so that together we can make the cultural and structural changes that are currently shutting out too many of our members. I had my first NEC equalities sub committee on Tuesday where these issues facing BAME members were raised and are being looked into and I will do everything I can to continue pushing these extremely important issues.

Young Labour membership has nearly doubled since Jeremy became leader. That is nothing short of incredible, yet many of those who were brave enough to speak last weekend said they weren’t sure they would come to another young Labour conference. This simply isn’t good enough. Rather than putting people off with factional infighting, we need to harness the energy and enthusiasm of these new young activists into fighting for a fairer country.

What we need to do now is focus on the real enemy, the Tories. It is the Tory government who are taking away our bursaries, our benefits and our futures. We cannot campaign against the Tories effectively, when some of our young members feel unable to participate in Young Labour at all. It is clear that there needs to be radical change in the way we do things, and as NEC Youth Rep I will listen to our liberation campaigns to ensure this change happens. We simply cannot have an organisation that our members do not feel safe participating in.

It is clear that a lot needs to change in Young Labour, but despite this I remain optimistic about the future. While it was a difficult conference for many, the bravery of those who spoke out means we can look back on it as a turning point. Their bravery has started something, and I will make sure that at our next conference, the news reports about Young Labour speak of a space where young people discussed and debated campaigns and issues in a safe and constructive environment. A Young Labour where we set our sights on changing the world.

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