I wanted the first post on this site to set out why I started the Labour Young Opinions Network (LYON). To do this properly though and to give the reasons some context, it would probably help for me to tell you- the reader- where I come from as a person.
I grew up in the former mining and glass making Northern town of St Helens. The town, like many northern industrial towns, was savaged by the despicable economic and industrial policies of the Thatcher Government in the 1980s. You could never have said that the town was an affluent area but after the coal mines were closed, many of our people were put out of work and life became even harder for its residents.
My mum and dad are not wealthy- my Granddad is fond of telling me that he grew up in a house with an outside toilet- and they never spent any money on my education. I went to the local state comprehensive which is where I discovered an interest in writing and also in politics. I was lucky enough to gain a place to study at Oxford University where I was able to develop those interests. This year, having finished University, I came back to St Helens and have been helping to set up a Young Labour group in the area.
This brings me back to the question of why I wanted to set up LYON. I sit in my Young Labour meetings (and in CLP meetings too) and listen to other young people who come along and speak so articulately and passionately about the issues that matter to them. We have great conversations about local issues and national issues, about the small details of policy and about the blue sky thinking of the Labour Party’s vision. I never fail to learn something at these meetings and have often left with my views in a different position than when I walked in.
But when we walk out, that is the end of the discussion. There doesn’t seem to be a way for us to contribute to the wider policy debate of the party. To develop our communication skills. To read other opinions and challenge our ideas and to express ourselves.
I started LYON to provide an outlet for us to do just that. For Young Labour members to publish work without the need to have contacts within organisations such as Labour List or the Fabians. So I started to ask around friends to ask for contributions and there were a few takers. But then someone said to me that they weren’t confident enough in their writing abilities to put their ideas- great ideas, convincing ideas, articulate ideas- into words.
And this got me thinking: ‘Why does the fact that something like writing comes easily to me mean that my views are more important or are more deserving of being broadcast?’ And I realised what I already knew, what I had already known, that they are no more important than everyone else’s. As much as I hate to admit, there are many times when the people within my Young Labour group who told me that they don’t feel confident to write have wiped the floor with me in oral debate and they deserve to be heard. I am a Socialist. For me, Socialism, at its most basic level, is about using the skills that you have to help others who don’t have those skills. So that’s what I want to use my skills to do. To help give others a voice.
I hope you enjoy reading this blog…