Like nearly half of the country, I supported Remain in yesterday’s EU referendum. I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who woke up this morning shocked at the result and unhappy that we are going to be leaving the EU. While I respect the will of the electorate, I don’t think it was the right choice for the country.
But it’s not worth us sitting around and moping today- as easy as it would be to turn off the telly and sulk because we didn’t get our own way. But the thin…g is, although we may be leaving the EU, the UK is still the same country it was yesterday, European law is still embedded in UK law and all of the positives that the Remain side have been talking about for the last few months are still part of our legal system.
The thing that yesterday demonstrated was the power of what organising, campaigning and above all voting can achieve. What I’m trying to say is this- THE FIGHT STARTS NOW.
Now, we don’t have the EU to protect our Workers Rights, our NHS, our Trade Unions. Now we have to do that ourselves. We need to build a movement to make sure that these, and other things that we value, are protected from the clutching hands of neoliberalism and the establishment.
This movement will require people with a wide range of skills, it will require canvassers, organisers, people who can build websites, people who can write letters, people who can have ideas and convince others and yes, people who just want to get involved and change the world.
Because the simple truth is that if YOU ‘don’t do politics’, politics gets DONE TO YOU and your voice doesn’t get listened to.
So to all those people who voted Remain yesterday and are sitting round feeling sorry for themselves- or even if you voted leave and want to see a better country- I’d say this: I’m ready to get involved, I’m ready to be listened to and I’m ready to make sure that if we’re going to ‘Take Back Control’ of our country that we do it the right way.
In today’s article, Daniel McKee reviews the Momentum Youth and Student Conference. Daniel is a graduate from Liverpool who joined Labour back in March and has been working to try an become involved with the party and with Momentum. He is also working to become an accredited Union Representative in his workplace when not wasting too much of his time on video games.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I arrived in Manchester on the 5th for the Momentum Youth and Students Conference. I’ve never attended a conference before and I don’t think I was prepared for the kind of frenetic excitement and activity that took place or how enjoyable it could be to engage with the big issues of the country with so many people.
As a means of networking and contacting those who have the same priorities and goals the Momentum Youth and Students conference was a great success. It was a valuable event in regard to unifying those involved in Regional and Liberation caucuses across the country who may have been working in isolation beforehand.
In terms however, of reaching some sort of consensus on policy on where Momentum will focus its activities the conference was a bust. Very little direction came from the eight hours in Manchester this weekend. Although there was general agreement on the broad aims of Momentum, whether this be on the NHS, the casualisation of labour or changes to education. Momentum’s stance on these issues however was already known.
I spoke to many of those attending the conference as the day was drawing to a close and one vein that seemed to run throughout a lot of their opinions was that the conference had failed to reach any sort of hard policy or aims on where we were going. If we do, for example oppose the current governments changes on the NHS in what manner are we choosing to do it. Are we throwing our support first behind campaigns to stop the scrapping of the Bursary or instead perhaps are we focusing on the position of the Junior Doctors?
If Momentum is to continue as a force for change, if it is to become a tangible instrument of politics then it will require more concrete plans of action. It will need a roadmap of how it intends to deal with the problems facing the country. This is not just to make sure that our efforts are co-ordinated as effectively as possible. If Momentum has policy and has direction, this can be given to the Labour Party and the public as a whole. These policies would be something to rally behind, something we could galvanise the electorate into following us on.
This wouldn’t be easy, simply agreeing on the problem isn’t the same as agreeing the solution. However I feel the Momentum Conference proved there is more that unites the left than divides it. This needs to become something. It needs to be synthesized into a driving force with which real progress can be made.
Without this direction Momentum faces the very real threat of petering out before it achieves its goals. The Left as a whole cannot allow this to happen, it cannot let itself become sidelined as it has so many times since the 1980s. Although discussion and debate is helpful and healthy we cannot allow it to become an endless argument with no tangible result as it sometimes did at the MSYC. If we cannot agree with, and convince, each other then what hope do we have convincing millions of voters?
In spite of this the MYSC was a step in the right direction. It brought many members and organisers together for the first time in tangible way, and it helped those involved in the Liberation and Regional caucuses to network. It now falls to these caucuses to focus their efforts over the coming months and to try and make progress. If this can be done then hopefully at the next MYSC there will be a more focused and effective effort for the change that so many of us feel the country needs.
In today’s article, Joe Clough casts a critical eye over the proposals to reform Labour Students. Joe is a student from Manchester having emigrated from Yorkshire to go to University and has recently been elected by Manchetser Labour Students to go as a delegate to the Emergency National Conference. Joe also really really likes cats.
Next week, hundreds of delegates from across the country will descend on Manchester to take part in the Labour Students Extraordinary National Conference. The original purpose of this conference was to alter the way that the National Committee members of Labour Students are elected. For several years, there has been growing pressure to change from the system of only allowing delegates to choose the committee to enabling all members to vote in an online ballot. This system is named One Member One Vote, or OMOV for short, and is claimed by its proponents to be more democratic. In a recent survey of Labour Students members 83% said that they thought OMOV was the best system, with only 8% saying that they disagreed.
Having looked at the proposed new constitution, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Labour Students Extraordinary National Conference is not about One Member One Vote. It is about adopting an entirely new constitution which introduces sweeping changes – only one of which is online OMOV (and then, for only some positions). Let’s have a look at some of these changes:
Who isn’t elected by OMOV?
The four liberation officers will be elected by OMOV under the proposed constitution, but at a face-to- face election rather than online. Delegates at National Conference shall elect five members of the policy committee and four members of the elections committee. Voting for this constitution isn’t voting for OMOV, it’s voting for partial OMOV.
Even more factionalism
Often in elections I’m presented with the false binary choice of the ‘left’ candidate and the ‘right’ candidate. As well as stifling political discourse, it makes it more difficult for new and unconfident people (read: people who are oppressed by society such as women and BME) to get involved. Currently for people to stand, they just have to nominate themselves. Under this new constitution, they have to get a number of nominations from member clubs (and that’s the whole club and not just individual members). The Labour Students Chair, Secretary and campaigns & membership officer will have to get 10 nominations, and the other 5 positions elected by OMOV will have to get 5 nominations. This is a ginormous barrier to standing. It will shut out a huge swathe of people from being able to stand, or even considering standing. It will mean practically that only a candidate backed by a faction will be able to get onto the ballot paper. For the positions that need 10 clubs, it’s easy to imagine circumstances where even the ‘left’ candidate or the ‘right’ candidate fails to make it on to the ballot and the OMOV voters will be presented with Hobson’s choice. For candidates to be even on the OMOV ballot paper, they therefore need to get over the high hurdle of getting the backing of clubs, sometimes with club committees acting as the gatekeeper.
All out of proportion
Currently, clubs get a number of delegates in proportion to their size. The proposed constitution would cut my club’s number of delegates down from 12 to 4 – to be on a level with every other club. Places of education come in all shapes and sizes, as do labour clubs, and this change to the constitution would mute the voice of students who happen to be at large clubs.
Additionally, this move would further entrench binary factionalism on the club level. Manchester had 15 candidates running for 12 places. In the end, a broad church of people was elected with a wide variety of political views. Under the new constitution, however, I would be encouraged to tightly organise a faction of four candidates who agree with my politics much more closely. The club would then be presented with a false, exaggerated, binary dichotomy of political slates to choose between. Also it would be logical for the people on the slates to be confident and experienced, to ensure they have a broader appeal, which would result in fewer new, younger, and inexperienced people to get involved.
RIP national Council
National Council currently happens every December, and can democratically set policy. Our labour club last December took a motion to support the Junior Doctors and it passed. Under the proposed constitution, this wouldn’t happen. It’s important we discuss politics regularly and it’s useful to have the flexibility and agility of having two annual member-directed democratic policy setting conferences. National council is at the ideal time of year to endorse candidates for NUS conferences – where and how will Labour Students select candidates for NUS elections when it is scrapped? Taking away national council also means that changing the constitution is a much more cumbersome affair, as changes to the constitution require votes at two national meetings.
Overall, is the proposed new constitution better than the current one? I, regrettably, do not think that it is on balance. I think that it is less democratic, and would entrench binary factionalism within Labour Students even further. I believe that it will make it harder for different and new voices to be heard which is crucial now more than ever.
In today’s article, Imogen Tyreman focusses on how the cuts have had an inordinate impact on women and tells us of the steps we need to take to remedy the situation.
The Conservative government have put through a lot of policies while pretending to look the other way, calling itself a government of the people while it cuts social securities, tax credits, and disability allowances. Yet, it always seems to be women who are hit the hardest, women who are called upon to suffer a bit more (they probably think we’re used to it after years of oppression) so we can ‘save’ money and make it out of the deficit.
Despite Cameron promising to end the gender pay gap in a generation, the government have just tried to introduce a new contract for junior doctors which will, if introduced, widen both the gender pay gap and the gender cost gap (how much more women will have to pay for services such as child care).
Leading health organisations have criticised the contract as endorsing gender inequality. Yet, the government’s equality assessment of it has said that the adverse affect it will have on women can be ‘comfortably justified’; and is just a ‘proportionate means to an end’
If only this was the first time the government viewed women in this way- as commodities whose well being can be ignored so long as the numbers add up and targets are reached. But there is a disturbing track record of government policy hitting women the hardest- and it’s not hard to track.
In terms of work, twice as many women as men have lost their jobs since 2010. Furthermore, women reaching retirement age have faced a struggle having not been notified of changes to their pension. Many had accepted redundancy or retirement expecting to be paid the full amount, and then found they had to work more just to be able to afford a place to live.
9/10 single parents are women, so cuts to child benefits affect women the most. Additionally, if women have a third child through rape, they must prove this was the case to receive money, as if going through it once wasn’t hard enough. Finally, if you’re living on a low income, you do not qualify for free childcare, which is reserved for ‘working families’.
Overall, 86% of the net savings made due to welfare cuts have been at the expense of women. Policies like the above, and many others that the government have introduced have all been at the expense of women. Women are targeted as a part of society who can shoulder the cuts for the foreseeable future, with any claim that this is discrimination brushed aside as a ‘necessary evil’.
We need to start asking ourselves how much longer will we be the subjects of these cuts? It’s unacceptable that even with the many demonstrations going on we still aren’t being listened to, and if cuts continue like they have, it’s hard to see the situation getting better any time soon. But I for one do not want to have to wait another 4 years before getting a say in what happens. That’s why I think it’s so important to put effort into campaigning for Labour and for women’s organisations across the country, making sure our voices aren’t just heard but are listened to.