During a decade of Tory rule, this government has failed young people. Devastating cuts to youth services, the rise of precarious work, spiralling student debt and a deep housing crisis have diminished the lives of a generation.
The failure to act on climate change leaves few of us optimistic about the future, while systemic oppression and inequality mean that our society is an alienating place for far too many young people.
As a youth worker in the East of England, I have spent each day over the past five years supporting young people though year-long mental health waiting lists, unemployment and homelessness. I’ve been at the coalface of the crisis and seen the pathway from underfunded schools and youth services to low-paying jobs and unaffordable rents that leaves thousands of us trapped in stressful and unhappy lives.
Coming face to face with these struggles has driven my determination to fight for change, and to put power back into the hands of young people. It’s crucial that our generation holds the Conservative government to account for the harm its austerity policies have caused. But, as a working-class woman, I know that it is not just a government but a system which is responsible for so many of our social ills. That system has a name: capitalism.
Young people can no longer afford a system which sacrifices the public good to private profit, or which values only those things which produce wealth for an elite. We will not be satisfied with a doctrine that tells us the future of the planet is less important than the bottom line of a corporation, or that black lives mean less than the privileges of the powerful.
We need a politics that challenges this worldview and delivers a future worth living. Our struggle for justice requires a bold, organised and imaginative response. That’s why I’m running for chair of Young Labour – to build a socialist youth wing of the party which fights for a better world for our generation.
Crisis of Young People
The Covid-19 economic crisis has had a profound impact on young people. Research from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) shows that workers under the age of 25 are three times more likely to face job losses, and youth unemployment is set to reach 1 million by the end of the year. This is the reality of precarious work – where increasing numbers of people are treated as disposable by their bosses and secure employment is hard to find.
There is no path to improving working conditions for young people that does not run through the revitalisation of our labour movement. Unfortunately, fewer than one in ten workers under the age of 24 are in trade unions today. As vice-chair of Young Labour, I supported young workers fighting back against precarious conditions in the McStrike, TGI Fridays and Wetherspoons strikes and organised action as part of the GMB’s ‘wages not based on ages’ campaign to tackle low wages for young workers. But we must go further.
Young Labour has to be an agent of change, helping to empower young people to organise in their workplaces and encouraging our labour movement to open up to a new generation of workers. If elected chair, I plan to run a young workers’ conference in partnership with affiliated trade unions – building solidarity in the face of our common challenges, equipping members with the skills to organise and discussing how to campaign on workplace issues from harassment to shortening the working week and repealing anti-union laws.
The crisis facing young people extends beyond the workplace, too – we can’t just organise for better wages if sixty, seventy, eighty percent of those go to your landlord every month. If elected chair of Young Labour, I will work closely with the inspiring campaigns fighting back against the housing crisis, from ACORN to the London Renters Union and Living Rent, to put tenants’ rights at the top of our political agenda and ensure that fighting the greed of landlords is never seen as ‘un-Labour.’
Movements for Change
But it’s not just at work or in housing where Young Labour must make the party more open to the movements fighting for justice in our society. In recent weeks, Black Lives Matter and the movement for trans rights have both been met with ‘neutrality’ from the Labour leadership. This is not good enough – with the far-right on the march across the globe, we need a Labour Party that does not hesitate in its anti-racism, its anti-fascism and its defence of minorities.
I have fought these battles in my own community, establishing Norwich Against Fascists to oppose the the far-right in my hometown and organising an 800-strong demo to force Islamophobic organisations off our streets. As chair of Young Labour, I will stand up against all forms of racist hatred – whether directed at Muslims, Jews, black people or immigrants, any effort to divide our communities and persecute minorities must be resisted.
I have also supported the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights and been vocal in my opposition to Tory plans to scrap reforms to the Gender Recognition Act. Trans rights are human rights and our young trans siblings throughout society deserve an unequivocal champion as chair of Young Labour. That is what I will be – just as I have been as an activist, youth worker and councillor.
The Labour Party needs to meet injustice with conviction. This means confronting the right-wing media and Tory politicians, not acquiescing to their agenda. You cannot be neutral when it comes to the fight against oppression: you are either with the oppressor or with the oppressed.
As a Labour Party, we also need to be prepared to listen, and not dismiss, new movements which are telling us that our solutions fall short – as they have done recently on racism and our relationship with the police.
This applies to the struggle for climate justice too, which will define the decades to come. The youth wing of our party must support movements like the school strike, and recognise the potential collective power of organised and mobilised young people fighting for change. Young Labour needs to engage newly politicised activists and champion policy solutions such as the Green New Deal.
Our struggle is also an international one. I was proud that Young Labour made Lula our honorary president last year, in an expression of support for the fight against Bolsonaro. It is essential that we stand in solidarity with those facing persecution, from LGBT+ people in Poland and Hungary to Latin American socialists.
As chair of Young Labour I will fight for a Labour government that respects human rights across the world – from ending arms sales to Saudi Arabia to recognising a Palestinian state and pursuing a policy of peace in the face of rising global tensions.
Renewing Young Labour
I have spent years organising in the youth sections of our party. It hasn’t always been easy, with senior figures often standing in the way of attempts to change outdated practices. But if elected chair, I will fight for a Young Labour that has the resources and autonomy it needs to be an effective voice for young people.
I stand on my record as a young activist in the party. In the East of England, as the regional youth representative, I have organised campaign activity across the region in every local and national election since 2016. This saw the East of England elect numerous fantastic young Labour councillors eager to change their communities for the better – and I intend to continue to champion the election of young socialists to councils across the country.
I am proud that during my time on Young Labour’s committee we repoliticised our youth wing, which for so long was underutilised and kept at arm’s length from making meaningful change in the party. I helped to co-write Young Labour’s submission to the party’s democracy review, which eventually saw the implementation of rule changes giving more power to young members and regional Young Labour groups.
Over the past four years I have worked to harness the potential of the youth wing of our movement, delivering national and regional political education and policy events, lobbying the Labour Party on policy positions, equalities policies and utilising my experience as a youth worker to put the issue of safeguarding on the agenda and try to improve our party’s approach to keeping young members safe. This, in particular, is work I am determined to continue if elected Young Labour chair.
Young Labour has the potential to be so much more than it has been. I know from personal experience that the structures running through the party often fail to equip young members to deliver the change they’re fighting for. When our young members take up positions, or when they are elected as CLP youth officers, Young Labour needs to ensure that they are given the support they need to be successful. As chair of Young Labour, I will start a UK-wide Youth Officer Network to connect young activists across the country.
Speaking to young members in recent months, many have told me that political education is a priority. That’s why, if elected, I will work with activists across our movement to build a comprehensive and well-funded programme of political education to develop a new generation of socialist activists with the confidence to express their ideas and organise their communities.
But it isn’t just in policy that we need to see change – the culture of the Labour Party needs to change too. The recently leaked report exposed the kind of toxic internal practices that come with unaccountable power, prejudice and bullying. I have witnessed firsthand how the party’s politics can feel alienating, and debates around policy can quickly turn ugly.
I will seek to build an inclusive and open Young Labour, free from discrimination in all its forms, and where all elements of our party can pull together to deliver a Labour government that offers a truly transformative agenda. This means a Young Labour which fights for those who need it – from workers on zero-hour contracts to people facing an often brutal welfare system. And it means a Young Labour that practices what it preaches in the fight for marginalised communities and increases our representation from black, BAME, disabled, LGBTQ+ and migrant backgrounds in positions of power.
I don’t want to be chair of Young Labour to build a personal brand, or to use it as a launch pad for a political career. I want to help my generation to fight for change by building a vibrant and diverse socialist movement that can take on the powerful interests which force so many young people to live lives far short of what they should be.
I’m proud to stand on this platform for change and excited to work with young members to achieve it. Together, we can transform the country. Let’s build a socialist future.