I will start my first blog with a piece of breaking news. I can proudly announce that efforts are under way to re-launch the Birmingham Young Labour Party. This will enable the party to engage with more young people in Birmingham. BYLP’s predecessor, West Midlands Young Labour, will still operate but it is hoped we can avoid some of the drawbacks the latter organisation faced. Most importantly the Birmingham Young Labour Party must be distinct from the university Labour Club, too often in the past the distinction between Young Labour and Labour Students has been blurred.
This however is not to put the blame on Labour Students in any way. We should on the other hand accept the weaknesses that Young Labour faces nationally. The National Organisation of Labour Students (NOLS), unlike Young Labour, has a major national profile. It has 3 full time officers, 3 annual national events, a national priority campaign and a number of regional conferences. It organises within the NUS and will organise campaigning in marginal seats come election time. To my knowledge Young Labour can claim very little in response to that; currently it is lacking a website and the only significant decision of its conference is the election of the youth rep to the NEC. As Jon Cruddas and John Harris point out in the Compass pamphlet Fit for Purpose: A programme for Labour Party renewal, “an increase in its independence and a boosting of its resources would be a very welcome idea.” Operational problems Young Labour faces in Birmingham are, in my opinion, largely the fault of ineffectual structure nationally.
So what does need to be done nationally? Young Labour needs to gain semi-autonomy from the party and have some freedom to debate and pass motions on Labour policy. The party must prove that the views of its young members are being heard. Financially an overhaul is needed. I also think that as this is a time of renewal we should also make this a time of reflection. Young Labour needs a purpose in order for it to have any drive. I don’t know what that purpose should be; either way it is probably something the membership should collectively decide on. Yet in the mean time we can fight the good fight in Birmingham with the aide of our new youth wing.
Posted by Tom Marley, BULS Vice-chair and Treasurer