What follows is a piece by Asher Mohammed on breaking down barriers in Young Labour. Asher is 15 year old and is currently Youth Mayor of Waltham Forest and a youth engagement part time worker. He is also the Walthamstow CLP youth officer, founder of Waltham Forest Young Labour and has recently been elected as Young Labour’s National U19s officer! In his spare time away from the Labour Party he is in Year 11 and limbering up to sit his GCSEs this summer. This piece was originally published on http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2016/03/11/breaking-barriers-in-young-labour/.
My name is Asher Mohammed; I’m 15, a school student and was recently elected as the National Young Labour U19s officer. Currently, anyone who is under the age of 19 in the Labour Party is expected to attend canvassing sessions or race to the local Labour Party for a photo session for social media but then have the door slammed at their face when it comes to real policy discussions. Unfortunately, like most caucuses in the Labour Party, the U19s section is still shackled by a possessive apostrophe of tokenism. I stood to deliver radical changes to the U19s section. I want to take U19 members away from desiring a photo opportunity with Jeremy Corbyn and stand up and be counted.
Firstly, I want to ensure that young members are engaged within the Party’s policy making process. During election times we are among the first to canvass for our party. I want to ensure we have regular discussions with U19s across the country and ensure our Young Labour campaigns reflect the ideas and contributions of all our members.
Secondly, I want to work with the national committee to set up a hardship fund specific to U19s. Most members who are u19 are studying and rely on financial support from our parents or family. Conference costs are pricing our young members out of democracy. Politics shouldn’t be about money, it’s their talent and qualities that we should be after, not their pockets.
Thirdly, I will introduce regular training for U19 members. From public speaking to campaigning workshops, I believe it’s our duty to enhance the skills of our young members to make sure we are giving them their money’s worth for the cost of their membership. There is a lack of U19 representation within internal Young Labour positions; I will ensure this is improved.
Lastly, as a Pakistani Muslim, events at Pubs can be so inaccessible. Moreover, most U19 members can’t even legally drink, so staying at Pub socials for more than an hour can be both a painstaking and uncomfortable experience. Though I would love to, I’m not calling for an anti- alcohol revolution, I just want to ascertain that our socials are representative of our membership.
There is a long way for the U19s section of Young Labour to go. If Young Labour doesn’t take us seriously, then how will the national Labour Party? For me, my position on Young Labour committee isn’t to enhance my CV, vote in line with a particular faction or just to become popular within the Labour Party. I was so proud to meet U19 members from around the country and discuss the changes they want to see. If just 28 U19 delegates out of hundreds of delegate positions available are elected, that is a problem. If a 14 year old has to pay £200 to attend a Young Labour conference in the most inaccessible conference location, that is a problem. If a 14 year is so intimidated that they are afraid to stand for an internal election all because of their age, that is a problem. As U19 officer I will work tirelessly to sort these problems out. I was brought to never take no for an answer, and will I? Hell no!