Of course young people want to vote Corbyn – 10 observations on the Labour leadership contest

I have been a member of the Labour Party since 2011, the current leadership contest is driving me mad, here are the top ten reasons why:

1. Why the rush?

In 2010 the Labour Party responded to defeat by holding an interminable leadership contest and completely took their eye of the ball as the Coalition government pushed through contentious legislation. For example, in this period the Academies Act was passed and we were locked into fixed term parliaments. We are now free to repent this withdrawal of accountability to the public at our leisure.

In 2015 the Labour Party responded to defeat by holding an interminable leadership contest…

2. Why so slow?

Having rushed to set up a leadership contest, we are now enduring a process that will have lasted almost as long as the cricket season before it is resolved. There are still six more weeks of this. Six more weeks of largely negative press coverage, of social media drivel, of leadership hustings where the candidates are given no time to develop an argument, or even to reveal if they have one.

Get on with it.

3. Why be a member?

I entirely back holding the leadership election on a one member, one vote basis. So why aren’t we?

Why should I pay my monthly debit if I can just wait until the next (very infrequent) decision that we get a direct say in and then pay £3 to take part instead? Young people are on a concession rate so who are we discouraging? Oh yes, Telegraph journalists who can see an easy way to paint the Labour Party as shambolic. Well done.

4. CLP nominations are a farce.

As the contest is decided by one person, one vote, what exactly is the point of the CLP nomination process? Hastily arranged meetings that attract a small proportion of members (approximately 15% here for example) are no reliable indicator of voter preference. Apart from providing journalists with something to write about, what is the point?

5. You are Her Majesty’s Opposition. Behave like it.

Related to point 1. MPs that are not part of the government have been elected to parliament to properly scrutinise legislation and oppose or suggest amendments to those elements they disagree with. This is called Opposition and is a constitutional duty. Considering how you think your stance might ‘play’ with the electorate in 2020 should not enter into it. Do you agree with what is being presented to you or not? Right, explain your reasons and get in the appropriate lobby. Abstention is a dereliction of duty (see also Simon Hughes and the tuition fees vote 2010).

6. Stop playing ‘the game’

The justification given by the acting Leader of the Labour Party for the lack of opposition to the government thus far is that ‘the electorate has spoken’ and as such we must allow any piece of legislation that they see fit to pass because they have a mandate to do so. Let me help her out here. Of the 46.4 million people who make up the electorate, only 24.4% voted for this government. 41.7% voted for other parties. Nearly 34% did not vote at all. There’s your mandate to oppose, Harriet, and it should define your mission to inspire too.

7. Campaign to change the game

As above, some leadership candidates are saying that the focus of the next five years should be to not upset the tiny percentage of the country that decides elections. Those that are least likely to have any firm principles; the swing voters in marginal seats. The Electoral Reform Society has correctly deemed the last election the most disproportionate ever. Rather than simply plough on and hope that the system favours us again at some point (as it has in the past) we should be challenging it. Even if it means we never hold power on our own again. Let’s form a campaign with other parties (shock horror) to demand a change to a system that encourages participation instead of one that prompts cynical policy making designed to curry favour with the few.

8. Those who have nothing to lose are not going to respond to being told to be ‘realistic’ 

I have not yet made my mind up about who I am going to vote for as Leader (or Deputy) but if I was 25 or under I know for certain that it would be Jeremy Corbyn. What are the other candidates offering by way of a radical change from what we have now for young people? I am ashamed of my generation when I think of how hard we are making the lives of the young and how quick we are to write off those who have not had the privileges that so many of us had. I’m certain that the other candidates care about the life chances of the young but they need to articulate what support they should expect from early years onwards to provide much greater equality of opportunity.

For those who are happy to accept the Chancellor’s view that young people do not need to have the same access to benefits that older people do, I urge you to watch this week’s Panorama (on iPlayer until the end of August) that focuses on young people being supported by the YMCA in Stoke-on-Trent. Some have already had far harder lives than anyone living in a wealthy country should do and yet they are trying to make their way in the world with the support of saintly support workers who strive to keep giving them a chance. In order to stay in the YMCA they have to provide funding via housing benefits or earnings. Cutting housing benefit for under-25s therefore directly impacts the ability of the YMCA to support them.

By not opposing the Welfare Bill, Labour gave succour to those who blame these young people for their circumstances and their poverty. This government talk about the ‘something for nothing’ culture when their privileged background shows that they are the very epitome of it. Pointing out their hypocrisy is not the ‘politics of envy’. We need leadership that is going to reach out to the young, listen to their concerns and ideas and give them a reason to vote Labour, not tell them to be ‘realistic’ and vote for us just because we’re not the Tories.

9. Disagreement with party members does not make you a ‘moron’ or a Tory.

The tone of debate about these contests, on social media in particular, is extremely poor. I do not believe that it is reflective of the vast majority of the membership and can only serve to make constructive reconciliation after the results are known all the more difficult. Whilst I disagree with some of the policy stances of all four leadership candidates, I have no doubt that they wish to further the aims of the Labour Party and do all they can to make them a party of government again. Suggesting otherwise in strident terms does no-one any favours and merely stifles debate as members are scared of offering an opinion should they be shouted down. If you can’t say something constructive…

10. Let’s live our Labour values

It’s going to be a long five years but I firmly believe that it should not be spent keeping heads down and waiting for the next chance to vote. There are plenty of opportunities to act in a communitarian way and show that key Labour values bring far more benefits than acting in narrow self interest. Avoid compromising where you can.

I’ll get back to my holiday now…


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