Could The Younger Generation Rejoin The European Union?

In today’s article, Stockport Young Labour’s Sam Johnson questions the permanency of the Leave result in last year’s EU referendum and asks the question: could the younger generation rejoin the EU?

Is it time for the “lost generation” to make their stamp on history? A controversial idea in the title however an important question non the less.

Firstly, could the United Kingdom rejoin the European Union after it leaves in 2 years time. Well in theory yes, there are no clauses to join the EU that says you can’t have previously been a member. The question really is whether or not the EU would allow us to re-enter, which really is something else which I cannot answer because we are not talking about in three years time that we can just casually rejoin like it’s a gym membership that we’re going to use once, it is a long term application. In this made-up situation in my head, it would also be with the conditions that the British public would want to rejoin the EU only a year after exiting it, something that I don’t see happening. But let me run with this…

A country before join the European Union must adhere to the ‘Copenhagen Criteria’, which is the following:

  • “Stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;
  • A functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competition and market forces in the EU.
  • The ability to take on and implement effectively the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.”
  • (Taken from the Europa website.)

A country also seems like it must be able to integrate into the European Union geographically too. As a previous member we would most likely be abiding by this criteria so that is one stage complete. Then there will be a negotiation period in which we will set out things such as the UK contribution to the EU budget and how much we get back, as well as how the UK will adhere to EU law and policies. Now this once again will take a long time, not only that but there will lots of backwards and forward negotiations and the outcome may be that our membership is not like the position we are currently in.

The current Conservative government seems to be going for what is considered as a ‘hard brexit’ where we will leave most if not all institutions associated with the European Union, not staying with the European single-market, and not allowing freedom of movement. But others, including the official opposition respect the will of the 52% however want to remain a part of the single market, which even some leave campaigners said that we could still do. So would it be possible to re-enter the single-market, which may be easier? Well once again theoretically yes because Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein are all members of the European Economic Area (EEA) allowing freedom of goods between them and other EU countries, even though those countries specified are not members. However one of the main reasons for people voting to leave the European Union was suggested to be the freedom of movement of people, which members of the EEA currently have to abide by. Would the UK be able to get a different deal? Probably not.

So public opinion would have a massive impact on whether or not we would rejoin the European Union… I know Captain Obvious. But as I stated in the title, will it be our generation, the young ones, that brings us back towards European unity? Well short answer is an obvious yes, of course we could rejoin the EU, the things to consider are the timeline of events and the viewpoints of our generation. Due to the voting patterns between age groups during the EU referendum then most likely to rejoin this generation will either have to become a lot more politically active in voting or will have to wait for our older counterparts to pass away (I know, morbid!).

One other point about whether it would be our generation to take us back into the EU is that viewpoints can change, if the Conservative government create an absolute mess of Brexit then yes most likely we will feel insecure and want to rejoin the EU for the “good old glory days” feel. However if it turns out well, we will find members of our generation changing priorities because by the time it would be possible to rejoin the EU, what was the younger people will have started families and be wanting to stay in a secure position.

All this is based upon “what ifs” we don’t know what is going to happen. So really I think now we have to accept that Brexit is happening, how our generation makes best of that, how we develop better relations with the rest of the commonwealth, and how to create a different yet still effective relationship with the European Union.

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Sam Johnson

On the Maximum Wage and Aspiration

In today’s article, Jack James responds to Oliver Simpkin’s article ‘On the Maximum Wage aka how to lose an election in one idea’. Jack studied Politics and Philosophy at Manchester University and is currently Secretary at Blackpool and Fylde Young Labour. He blogs personally at thefatiguingclimb.blogspot.co.uk

I’ve seen many arguments against the proposed Maximum Wage policy floated by Jeremy Corbyn recently, some are more reasonable than others, but the idea that it attacks aspiration is ridiculous. While it was presented poorly, it has the potential to be not only a good idea but a big vote winner and has consistently been shown to be so.

In a 2015 survey by the High Pay Centre, 66% of people were in favour of a Maximum Pay gap so that bosses would only earn a fixed amount more than an average employee. In research done by Oxfam in 2016, 64% of people favoured legislation that would mean bosses could only earn 20 times that of the lowest paid employee, 74% also said that business has a responsibility to reduce poverty and inequality.

It would be great if we could rely on Businesses to help tackle inequality by paying fairly, making sure all of their employees earned enough to live a decent life, but we simply cannot. In many cases, one of the very reasons unscrupulous bosses are able to line their pockets is exactly because employees are being exploited and underpaid. Average real earnings in Britain have declined by 10% since 2007, joint lowest in the OECD along with Greece. Meanwhile, the salaries of FTSE 100 CEO’s rose by 10% last year alone.

It’s ludicrous to think that by proposing to introduce a pay ratio we are attacking aspiration, taking the example from Jeremy Corbyn’s speech, if a ratio is set at 20 :1 and the lowest paid employee is earning the living wage at £16,000 per year, this would permit an executive to earn nearly £350,000. Most of us can never hope to earn that much in a year. What really crushes aspiration is a lack of opportunity. We want people to aspire to have successful careers and lead happy lives, to do this we need to make firms invest more in education and training. We need to make sure that people, no matter what age, have access to education so that they can retrain and switch careers if they want or need to.

Oliver says wage limiting policies will lose us votes in the de-industrialised north, I say that’s nonsense, people in the north don’t need high earning executives to aspire to be. They need opportunity, they need to be able to believe that working hard in school won’t be a waste of time. That when they leave school there will be jobs available to them. This year, over half of all graduates will go into non-graduate roles and if you want a graduate job, you’d better be willing to move to London or another city because elsewhere high skilled professional jobs are few and far between.

Finally, Oliver goes wrong when he says that by introducing a wage limit we lock out millions of taxable funds and therefore the state will crumble. He forgets that the UK’s richest people have access to tax loopholes that the poorest do not, the poorest 5% of people paid more tax than the richest 5% in 2015. The Panama Paper’s also showed how the country’s richest are able to hide money overseas in Tax Havens.

He’s right to say that progressive taxation is a fundamental left wing value but if we are to be truly progressive we should be concentrating less on income tax, as it could be said to to reduce the incentive to work (or perhaps that it limits peoples aspiration to succeed) and more on taxing unearned income such as introducing a Land Value Tax, that would not only force wealthy owners of Land to pay a share of the profits made on it but it could also encourage a more productive use of that land and discourage dodgy practices like land banking.

Labour is building a progressive but credible economic plan, stopping bosses from earning obscene amounts of money at the expense of everyone else can be a key part of that plan.

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Jack James

Why it’s important for young members to have older mentors

In today’s article, Andrew Bettridge tells us why it’s so important for young members to have older mentors and pays tribute to two of his own mentors. Andrew is a member of Burton Labour Party in the West Midlands. He works for a Labour Member of Parliament working on Communications, Campaigns and Events after he graduated from Staffordshire University in 2012.

Joining the Labour Party and going to your first meeting can sometimes be a daunting experience, especially for younger members. It was just a few months after the party’s defeat in 2010, I walked into a meeting at the Burton Caribbean Club for the first time and not knowing a single person – what have I let myself in for I thought?

One of the first people to introduce themselves to me was Councillor Ron Clarke, who served on the Borough Council and was also a former union rep from the car industry. I remember him putting me on the spot in the meeting asking what I thought the Labour Party should do for young people – stumbling to get my words out because of my nerves, I said something about “Votes at 16” being important.

The next event I went to was the Constituency Party’s Christmas Party, where I was reunited with my old ICT teacher Julian Mott, who again like Ron served on the Borough Council. There I also met County Councillor Peter Davies, who’s nursery I attended I think from around the age of three or four.

I talk about Peter, Ron (both in now in their late 70s) and Julian (in his mid-60s) fondly because without them three I probably wouldn’t be where I am now – working as a Communications and Campaigns Assistant to a Labour MP and Shadow Minister.

Not living at university and coming from an area that didn’t have a specific group for young labour members meant I didn’t have the same access as some do to Young Labour or Labour Students groups. But that didn’t matter because of the way I was welcomed into my local constituency party. I didn’t feel like I was missing out by not going to events like the Young Labour Conference in 2013 and other events for young members because I had my party friends in Burton.

This coming May both Julian and Peter, will draw a close on their time in local politics with them both stepping down from their respective council positions. Ron, also now a County Councillor isn’t stepping down but who knows how long he will decide to continue on for.

The reason I wanted to write this piece was to say thank you to each of them. In many ways the three of them have become like mentors to me, who have given me the best political education a young party member could have asked for and putting me in good stead for what I do now as a job.

Ron, I’d often have a drink with at the Pub and from him learnt the important lessons of “playing the political game”. “It’s not what you do but it’s the way you do it” was another of his line.

Julian who taught me the skills of becoming an effective political organiser – teaching me how to use programmes like the Party’s Contact Creator system and how to operate a RISO machine without wanting to throw something at it.

And finally Peter, who educated me about all the different mechanics of how local government operated and told me about the work he was doing on various council committees. He also held the best fish and chip suppers.

At the end of 2013 I left Burton for Blackpool to do what I do now, working for a Labour MP. A couple of weeks after the election in 2015 I returned home for the weekend, still on a high from the election success I had enjoyed as the Campaign Coordinator for the Labour Party in Blackpool South.

I met with Ron, Peter and Julian at a local curry house, and whilst they didn’t get the results they wanted in Burton, it was good to chat with them about the last five years and reflect on the influence they had made on me – from when I first joined as a shy young party member to what I am now doing.

So when Julian and Peter step down later this year, and also whenever Ron chooses to I will be very sad. But at the same time I will also be extremely thankful to these three party stalwarts for their mentoring and friendship and making me the person I am today.

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Andrew Bettridge

Connecting Passions: Lessons from uniting Young Labour Campaigners

In today’s article, Injy Johnstone talks about how important it is to make connections with Young Labour members worldwide to share best practice and help left and centre left parties win elections all over the globe.  Injy Johnstone is the International Secretary for New Zealand Young Labour, a delegate to the International Union of Socialist Youth and has campaigned in elections in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Door knocking, leafleting, constituent clinics. These could be agenda items for a UK Young Labour meeting sure but did you know they could just as easily be agenda items for Young Labour meetings in New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere in the world? The only difference being our accents and perhaps the weather outside.

The Labour movement is about campaigning for a fairer go for people, decent work, housing and education. This doesn’t change across borders. Unsurprisingly therefore as Young Labour campaigners we share common successes and difficulties in these tumultuous political times. We stand a lot to gain from international collaboration.

Practically this means the ability to share campaigning best practice. With the roll out of new technologies alongside our tried and true pavement pounding; there is room now more than ever to share the successes of our campaign innovations. To illustrate this, in April 2016 I was sitting in a Starbucks in Vancouver with some Young Liberal Campaign Leaders and they told me how their election was won on the doorstep. Not only that, but they simply couldn’t have done it without embracing smartphone canvassing. Having never heard about that until then, I was able to bring that back to New Zealand Labour and I’ve now been promised a smartphone-friendly canvassing solution for use on our doorsteps too.

Developing international best practice campaigns also means sharing training resources and strategies for recruiting and retaining volunteers. Techniques to sign members at student union days or how to lobby the senior party on issues. Best practice campaigning also has an international camaraderie aspect. Which means that, should you want it, through a quick email or facebook message to New Zealand you have a fresh sounding board for your ideas.Two heads are better than one, and it’s even better if those two heads have had a diversity of campaign experiences between them.

International collaboration also means learning lessons from each other. In terms of accessing the effectiveness of different types of campaigning, winning elections, losing elections, they all tell a story about the Labour movement in the modern world and that’s a story all Labour campaigners need to have the latest on. Will NZ see another Trump/Brexit type shock result in our election? Although hard to tell, after the lessons learnt from this, we now know all the rules of the game have changed. We have to make more of an effort than ever to get engaged with and listen to our communities and collaborate with the best and brightest campaigners from around the world. So we can start to see the real difference that having Labour Governments all around the world would make.

LYON are currently in the process of organising for a group of UK Young Labour members to go to New Zealand and help them help Labour win their general election on the 23rd September. If this is something you’re interested in then email labour.lyon@gmail.com to find out more!

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Injy Johnstone

Just because The S*n says no, Labour shouldn’t say yes

In today’s article, Nathan Kelly gives us his analysis of Leveson Part 2. Originally from St Helens, Nathan now lives in Durham where he studies Politics Philosophy and Economics at the University there.

“An appalling piece of legislation”, spoke The Daily Mail in an editorial concerning Section 40 – the controversial press regulation legislation recently undergoing government consultation with the public. In an earlier vote upon the legislation, held in November 2016, Labour held a three-line whip in favour. Moreover, Labour unanimously backed Section 40 in the Lords helping it achieve a victory from the peers of 282 to 180. Alas, Labour ought not to support such legislation that could cause detrimentally negative impacts upon the British press – which has been free for 300 years – and should, instead, oppose section 40.

I shall now indulge, briefly, in an analogy:

Imagine you’re in a coffee shop – let’s support small business – a small, local, independent coffee shop. Having purchased a latte, you go to leave, just as someone knocks into you; causing your beverage to spill all over the floor. However, that person has also lost their beverage in the collision and decides to blame it on you, they speak to the manager to try and prove you were at fault. Alas, the manager – with you and the stranger – watches the CCTV footage and concludes that, indeed, you were not at fault and that it was the stranger’s actions that caused the two of you to lose your drinks. Phew, you’re off the hook. Yet, the manager then forces you to pay for both yours and the strangers drinks despite agreeing that you were not in the wrong. After being found innocent and blameless, you have to foot the bill for all involved – doesn’t sound particularly fair, does it?

Unfortunately, this is the reality British publications would face under section 40; our press would dissipate. If a publication were to print a story and be subsequently sued for libel, regardless of that cases’ outcome, the publisher would have to pay for both their own costs and the costs of those who sued them. Indeed, even if the publication legally proved they were allowed to print their story, they would be forced to pay the costs of their opponent – for doing nothing wrong.

The Guardian announced losses of £69 million in 2016, financially, the British press is in a bad way. An increase in legal costs – especially those which are entirely unjust – could force many publications to fold. Journalists would cease to uncover the truth and expose hypocrisy for fear that no publication would print their story and wish to risk the libel costs that would be associated with printing the truth. The Sunday Times recently claimed it would not have published Lance Armstrong’s doping story if the legislation had been in place; Armstrong would have certainly sued the newspaper, despite the story being true, and caused them great financial damage. Section 40, would usher in a culture of fear amongst publishers; fear to print the courageous journalism that makes up much of the British press because the potential financial risks would be all too great.

One of the largest proponent against section 40 is, indeed, The Sun. The Sun’s interest in opposing it largely lie in their staunch commitment to the exposure of C-list celebrities’ hypocritical private lives in their pages. Dismissing the loss of this as inconsequential is largely a matter of taste, however more significantly would be the potential loss of stories to other newspapers. The Guardian’s Panama papers leak was a sensational story exposing the wealthy of this world as tax avoiders who feel no commitment to society, David Cameron’s father was implicated. Had section 40 been in place, the claims on Cameron’s father may have never been printed – would a financially struggling newspaper really put itself in the fire of an expensive libel suit? The Spectator may have had second thoughts about publishing a story of the mismanagement of Kid’s Company by Camila Batmanghelidjh, had Batmanghelidjh been easily able to threaten the publisher with a costly legal case.

Those who experienced phone hacking deserve to be protected, but not by Section 40. Section 40 is an attack on the British press’ ability to expose political hypocrisy and business corruption. It should come as no surprise that Ian Hislop – Private Eye editor, and famously the most sued man in Britain – said of the legislation: “Dictators will love it.” The government has provided a means for publications to avoid the legal costs, they simply have to sign up to a state-approved regulator – currently, Impress. Alas, all publications have declined, the vast majority are with IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation) and a few others – The Guardian and Financial Times, et al – are self- regulated. Forcing the press to abide by the government’s will would be detrimental to their independence and compromise the press’ ability to criticise a government to whom they are ultimately beholden, government regulation infringes on a press liberty that has existed for 300 years.

Labour tends to get a rough time in certain areas of the press. However, the scorn towards tabloids should not inspire Labour to support section 40. Instead, Labour should proudly defend the freedom of the press, the integrity of journalism and the future exposes that would not occur if section 40 were enacted. As The Times, The Spectator, Private Eye, The Mirror, The Metro – who used their first ever leader column to oppose it – and many publications oppose section 40, so too should Labour.

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Nathan Kelly