Interesting post by Ian Silvera on Labour Uncut, with regard to the Young Labour election rules. I don’t agree with some of where Ian is coming from, but I think he has some points, and have offered a couple of solutions, laid out below.
Unlike Ian I have fought bitterly on a number of fronts for All Women Shortlists and gender quotas within a number of organisations. As gender rules tend to disadvantage non-dominant factions in parties all over the world, this has often been to the detriment of the left and centre-left of Labour in the UK, those parts with which I am most commonly associated, if we have to see it in such terms.
Fundamentally, I would rather make sure we got the base right in terms of gender than secure a free run for people I agree with on policy. But like so much else in Young Labour, the changes which the NEC has recently imposed on our organisation are a mess.
A commitment to gender fairness does not excuse botched, unworkable or plainly defective solutions to that problem. This is what we now have. Even though the old system worked.
It also does not give any moral weight to solutions imposed undemocratically, or without consultation. This, once again, is what we have got.
Anyway, this is how I responded to Ian (with a bit of cleaning up). It seems to me that we desperately need a return to the previous system, which did work.
A couple of responses to you points (I am currently the SE rep on the national committee and as such, unfortunately, am not allowed to re-stand, as I am male).
Firstly, I want to make clear that I support gender quotas as long as there is sexism in the Labour Party. It is important to reverse prejudice where it takes place. If we on the left are not willing to make that case, what case exactly are we prepared to make?
Second point, but this letter was not actually from Young Labour, but from the Labour Party. Young Labour had no knowledge of the changes until we received the letter ourselves.
I am appalled by the fact that the NEC did *not* consult the current executive or Chair. This is very worrying.
Secondly, I am also alarmed that the election rules are not covered as part of our constitution, but am not surprised as our constitution is completely dysfunctional and unfit for purpose.
Finally, there was no point in changing the previous system, and I would definitely advocate returning to it.
It was complicated, but it basically involved removing the winning men who did worst in the regional elections and replacing them with the women who did best, until the executive was gender balanced.
This system had two big advantages over the current one in that:
1) It reflected merit as well as seeking to redress discrimination in term of votes and/or candidatures where it may exist – it was a meritorious quota rather than an arbitrary one
2) It would have allowed regional reps such as myself to re-run and get on if we had done a good enough job. This is important, as Reps could do with the incentive of re-election once they are initially elected.
3) It would allow fresh young males with something to offer to also get involved, whilst still providing a gender balanced executive.
The NEC has called this one very badly, and I hope to see a return to the old system – along with a whole other bunch of constitutional reform.
To find out a bit about those other problems and possible cures, I suggest you read Christine Quigley’s manifesto at http://www.christinequigley.org
In itself, it seems silly to me that the NEC makes decisions over our election process full stop.
Young Labour should be part of the Labour Party run by young members.
Christine herself does not have a declared policy on this specific issue, and nor do NEC candidates.
But it seems clear to me that at the very least we should be setting the rules democratically ourselves, perhaps with something like a Control Commission or some collected YL veterans.
In so many ways Young Labour is essentially a broken organisation. This should be much more unacceptable to the wider party than it is currently seen, especially if we are to drive on youth recruitment.
Until it is reviewed in full (this is one of Christine’s policies), it will never properly represent thousands of its own members, and never have any measure of independence.
Stop bossing us about, and going behind our backs.
We might be young, but we are also adults. We deserve a bit more respect.
I would be very interested to hear what Chair and NEC candidates have to say.