David Collett is the current chair of Blackpool Young Labour and has been a Labour member for 11 years. David this year teamed up with other nurses to create the Keep The NHS Bursary Petition gaining over 150,000 signatures. David also coined the term #BursaryOrBust and was involved in the campaign resulting in two parliamentary debates and mass protests in London, Manchester and Newcastle.
This year, a group of passionate nurses and I created the campaign #BursaryOrBust, where I learnt the valuable lessons of communication and networking on a national scale. This year also saw the reformation of Blackpool Young Labour, and it was through this process I realised how much of an insular organisation Young Labour can be.
It is no secret that Jeremy Corbyn has enthused the nation, with younger voters significantly contributing towards the current Labour Party membership. So why are we not more welcoming? Anybody between the ages of 14 and 26 are automatically members of Young Labour and for those wishing to take full advantage of their newly granted youth status might (as I have recently discovered) find it difficult to get started. Whilst setting up Blackpool Young Labour I, like many new members have needed to visit the Young Labour website for information on reps, delegate and even the basic structure of the Young Labour Executive. And there is nothing! I recently discovered all the secrets to the YL structure are nicely nestled within the rule book. But, as a member of 11 years, it struck me why would anybody want to read it? Surly this basic information should be readily available so that any new member can get a grasp of who their local rep is or who to contact to get involved without having to sift through pages of rhetoric and policies.
People may well argue that new members can ask their local MPs, Councillors or even Labour HQ itself. But why should it be such hard work? Why are we not empowering any inquisitive young members- who might not want to bother anybody (or declare their interest just yet)- with the tools they need to make that leap from quiet support to roaring activism. This lack of transparency can only turn those in need of information toward other means such as social media. Twitter and Facbook are undoubtedly valuable resources to allow YL to spread messages instantly to its members. But at what cost? Anyone who might have been brave enough to search for #YL16 a few weekends ago would have seen the torrent of chaos overshadowing any positive messages coming from Scarborough. It stands to reason that anybody hoping to catch a glimpse of the inner working of Young Labour will have seen those tweets. If it left some longstanding members questioning their future involvement then what must newer or younger members have thought?
It is also important to mention the void of Young Labour specific publicity sent to members. I regularly receive emails to my spam folder about sending messages to PMQs or how I can win dinner with Diane Abbott. But with all the resources available to the party I rarely receive anything Young Labour specific.
Young Labour should be about younger members developing their interest in politics and meeting likeminded individuals in safe environments. Allowing our younger generation to develop to a level of participation they feel comfortable with, from painting banners drinks brews and talking about current events. To sitting around tables with JC himself discussing policy. We must be more welcoming and transparent to those new members who are not necessarily in the know or who don’t have friends on the inside, by promoting exactly what Young Labour does and how we can be a force for change. Not just for younger people but for the party and the nation.