The Labour Students conference began last Friday after a coordinated effort by several clubs threatening disaffiliation over the issue of One Member One Vote (OMOV) for elections to the Labour Students National Committee. The exact reason for the letter was the decision by Steering and the National Committee to block three motions asking for a further debate on OMOV at conference. However, as delegates had already voted on this issue at National Council and agreed not to discuss it until after 2015, the three motions were blocked. This tension continued into the conference with a mass walkout by several clubs over this very issue and a poorly worded motion in favour of stopping censorship and inference from National Council. The motion as a whole would have done nothing to progress their aims and was rightly voted down by the remaining delegates after the walkout. It is important to note that the walkout was by supporters of Tom Phipps for National Secretary, though Tom did not walk out himself.
To be brutally honest, I cannot see what the walkout or the whole disaffiliation threat will achieve at all, other than dividing us in the crucial run-up to 2015. I cannot understand what we will achieve as a divided organisation. On the back of our membership cards, it said “Through our common endeavours we achieve more than we achieve alone.” We should honour this and pull together for 2015 to remove a reactionary right-wing Conservative government with a distain for all of us. I deeply hope we can move past our differences and focus on what matters to all of us and pull behind Fin as she leads to us into 2015.
I have little time for those who will not stand with us and choose to leave the strongest political student organisation in the country other than NUS. It is petty and undeserving of the some of the great clubs which have threatened to leave. Politics and history is made by the people in the room, and those not in the room will be left out.
In other matters at Labour Students, we elected our new national committee to take us into 2015 and coordinate us in delivering a Labour government with Ed Miliband as Prime Minister. We also got through a raft of motions, my particular highlight being the motion to renationalise the railways, which is a pragmatic solution for Blairites and Bennites alike.
As a dramatic Labour Students drew to a close, we moved swiftly into Young Labour, and what would prove to be a weekend with some interesting results. We were addressed by Harriet Harman, and much like Angela Eagle at Labour Students, she gave us a rousing call to arms to make history and deliver a Labour government in 2015.
The most contentious issue at Young Labour was certainly the debate on the Collins Review and the vote on how we should mandate our delegates to vote at the special conference. The debate was opened by the Labour Representation Committee’s Youth Officer- Tom Butler- who gave a passionate speech against these reforms. While I can certainly comment that this debate was passioniate, it was one of the worst and inaccessible debates I have ever taken part in. It was factional and on the whole disrespectable to people of an opposing opinion. I commend Simon Darvill’s cool in the face of difficult circumstances. But I was truly shocked by the attitudes of some people in this debate. I was shocked that they believe it is okay to intimidate people to vote against these reforms and it was the anti-Collins faction which in the most part was disrespectable and caused several delegates to break down and not return to Young Labour. The whole atmosphere of the debate and the subsequent vote and recounts was toxic, with delegates attacking other delegates on Twitter simply for who their employer was. I would not have appreciated it if anyone used my membership of particular internal pressure groups as a means of attack on me for supporting these reforms. The vote eventually ended at 109-107 in favour of rejecting the Collins Review and mandating our delegates to vote against it next week at special conference. The issue of the atmosphere at the debate was debated further at the liberation caucuses the next day. I firmly believe that this vote should have been completed through a secret ballet to truly allow for a ‘safe-space’ for independent voting, and for individuals not to be subject to disgusting intimidation from other delegates in the room.
Other than the Collins Debate, there was the first ever written motions debate at a Young Labour conference, leading to the left reasserting themselves with a series of extreme proposals. One such proposal was the idea of a 10% one-off super tax on the wealth of the 10% wealthiest in the country. While I can see the principle behind this, it is completely unworkable and requires Britain’s undesirable withdrawal from the European Union. Other motions included a proposal for a mass house building programme, which included the abolition of the Right to Buy. I myself however felt compelled to vote against the motion. I do not believe that abolishing such a popular policy would deliver a Labour government or even the ‘bold socialist policies’ which some delegates which to see implemented.
The weekend as a whole was a turbulent affair. I was and still am deeply displeased with the naive move to the left by those who want to repeal the progress made under the last Labour government. In order to win in 2015, we must have a united and strong Labour Students spending money on campaigning and not bureaucracy. We must have a Young Labour campaigning from the progressive centre-ground and supporting Labour in securing a majority in 2015. We must have a Labour Party which seeks to govern for all our people with a One Nation manifesto for progress.
On a final note, my personal highlights of the weekend were being tweeted by blessed saint Owen Jones and dancing to D:Ream ‘Things can only get better’ at Labour Students. Quite appropriate, I thought.
By Cameron Beavan-King