It has been an interesting year for the Labour Party.
With Brexit and the general election that nearly saw the ‘End of May’, Young Labour members have been busy campaigning in some of the most pivotal elections of our generation. Ever since Jeremy Corbyn became party leader in 2015, Labour has seen its membership swell on an incredible scale. Young Labour currently has an estimated 100,000 members, making it one of the largest youth wings of any political party in Europe.
Young Labour is ran by a committee made up of democratically elected young members from across Britain. Arguably, the most important and influential position on the committee is the NEC Youth Rep. The NEC Youth Rep sits on the Labour NEC, which is the Labour Party’s chief administrative body and is involved in the most important decisions made by and for the party. So all in all, it is considered the most valued position on Young Labour’s committee.
The way the NEC Youth Rep position is voted for at National Young Labour conference is complex. Young Labour as an organisation is made up of 14-26 year old young members, affiliates which are made up of trade unions and socialist societies, and the key part of the current debate; Labour Students. Until recently Young Labour held its elections at a national conference that was held bi-annually where 303 elected delegates would vote for the new committee including the NEC Youth Rep. These delegates were elected via OMOV (One Member One Vote) which is how the Labour Party also elects its leader and NEC Reps. The make up of these delegates is where the current debate is based around. Before the recent NEC vote, the make up of these 303 delegates was 101 delegates to Young Labour members, 101 delegates to affiliates and 101 delegates to Labour Students. It is the 101 delegate allocation to Labour Students that has always been disputed by many in the party. There was no rule in the Young Labour constitution to say that Labour Students should be allocated a 3rd of the votes for the NEC Youth Rep. However, due to the power the NEC Youth Rep holds, Labour Students were given such a large chunk of votes as such a large number would enable them to ‘swing’ the vote, as it were.
This isn’t about internal factional politics, it’s about democratising our movement. And who wouldn’t want that?
It’s no secret that Labour Students as an organisation is dominated by the moderates of the Labour Party. So by having such a large block of votes, the Labour Students opinion was highly influential in the result of the NEC Youth Rep elections. The issue with Labour Students having such a large section of votes in elections like the NEC Youth Rep, is that nobody actually knows how many members Labour Students have. As an organisation, Labour Students have been trying to implement OMOV for a number of years to no avail. They state that the reason they cannot implement OMOV, and therefore make the organisation more democratic, is because they have no way of knowing how many people are actually in Labour Students. Therefore, Labour Students having the same voting rights as Young Labour which is an organisation that has 100,000 recorded members, isn’t just ridiculous, it’s highly unfair. Labour Students estimate their numbers to be around 10,000 which is tentimes less than Young Labour, meaning that one Labour Students vote is worth 10 Young Labour votes, but this isn’t how the voting was made up. Which is where the problem lies. ON TOP of all that, Labour Students as an organisation had the same amount of votes as every young member of Labour Party affiliated Trade Unions, combined. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of young members. Sounds a bit undemocratic doesn’t it?
Well it was.
However, when the NEC met recently, they decided to change the way the NEC Youth Rep is voted for. This is where it gets spicy. The NEC recognised that Labour Students having such a large block of votes was disproportionate to their members and decided to reduce the amount of votes they had in Young Labour elections. From now on, the youth rep will be chosen by a new system that gives 50% of the votes to OMOV ballot of Young Labour members and 50% to young trade unionists or ‘affiliates’. Now to most people, this just seems like the logical thing to do. However, many of the party’s moderates have come out in opposition of the rule changes implying it’s a cold-hearted factional decision to limit Labour Students’ participation in Young Labour elections. By opening up the Young Labour elections to OMOV, the party is ensuring that all 100,000 Young Labour members get a say in who’s representing them at a national level. It’s democratic, nothing more, nothing less. And it’s long overdue.
The suggestion that Young Labour is embroiled in some Momentum run factional ‘warfare’ is a far-fetched conspiracy. The current Young Labour committee were elected on the promise that they would implement OMOV, ensuring that all of their members could participate in a truly member led democracy. If anything this is a celebration of what all of their hard work has achieved.
This isn’t about internal factional politics, it’s about democratising our movement.
And who wouldn’t want that?