Where not.

This is a piece written by Callum Morton, previous Campaigns Officer for Liberal Youth, in response to an article by Vice Chair Harry Matthews, entitled ‘Where Next’ 

If you’ve been keeping up with this debate, you’ll have noted that at the last Liberal Youth Conference an amendment was approved encouraging us to ‘move away from the ‘Party within a Party’ mentality’.

What this phrase is supposed to mean I have no idea, but I can understand the crux of the issue.

What the Liberal Youth leadership wants to do is stop talking amongst ourselves (in other words, being critical) and get out there and campaign, particularly for those target seats in the next election. Now, if you’ve read my articles for The Libertine and Lib Dem Voice in the past, you’ll note that I hate the idea of turning Liberal Youth members into campaign fodder. Of course campaigning is important, and we should always encourage young members to get involved in local campaigns, but as Liberal Youth we should be providing more opportunities for our members than simply door-knocking.

Overall though, the whole argument of ‘where next’ for our youth wing is invalid, by the simple and pure fact that Liberal Youth is not yet fit for purpose. We do not have enough of our members involved. We have poor turnout at elections. Not enough members turn up to Activate or Conferences. Far more don’t even know we exist. And let’s not forget the fact that staff at Lib Dem HQ have too much involvement and say over what we decide to do – something that still hasn’t been resolved by the leadership of Liberal Youth. Oh yeah, and the fact that the party doesn’t have a commitment to discuss at least one Liberal Youth motion at every Federal Conference. I could really go on.

Until we resolve these issues and more, most of what we try to do as a youth wing of a political party in Government will be redundant.

We have started doing things differently though, in the way that I think Liberal Youth members deserve. The Bears for Belarus campaign and involving FE colleges in our Freshers campaigns are both great examples of Liberal Youth being the best that it can be. Of course we should get the party involved where necessary, but we should withdraw from treating the party like it is some almighty being. We should be challenging the party on its actions, engaging our young members in anything we do and empowering our members to get involved in the party and Liberal Youth in any way they wish to. Three key goals that we can’t derail from.

I worry, and I think other members should too, when a Liberal Youth Executive Officer uses the words ‘work with our party more’ or ‘respect our party’ – because the reality of the situation is that the Liberal Democrat party should be working with us more, and respecting the contribution we have, NOT the other way around.

If you want to talk to Callum about this article, you can find him on Facebook or via @callum_morton on Twitter.

This article is solely the views of the author and should not be taken as the views of Liberal Youth, the Liberal Democrats, nor the editorship of the Libertine.

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3 thoughts on “Where not.

  1. Harry Matthews says:

    Well, I guess I should make some form of comment – although this is now getting a bit meta for my liking.

    Fundamentally this is about achieving our objectives. Now we could have a debate about that for sure, but I think it can be summarised in three things (in no particular order):

    1) Elect more Liberal Democrats
    2) Recruit more members
    3) Change party policy

    We’re good at 3), not so good on 1) & 2).

    By being better at 1) & 2), the Federal party – actually the whole party – will respect our opinion a lot more. That means we can achieve 3) even better. That’s the logic that was behind the amendment.

    I have to take issue with the idea of me wanting to turn people into ‘campaign fodder’, mainly because it’s complete rubbish. Talking to those members engaged with us already (a select few, I know), the general feeling was that if we made campaigning fun, they were up for it; if we trained them well enough, they would teach others; and most importantly, they said they all felt empowered because of the campaigning they had done – whether that had been for elections or like today’s Belarus protest – a new confidence & self-esteem. I want more people to get involved with Liberal Youth, because it should be fun and interesting. If we get that right, it won’t be turning people into fodder – it’ll be awesome & joyful.

  2. Bobby Dean says:

    I completely respect and sympathise with Harry’s view – he is not incorrect in his intentions. Equally, Calum alludes to some good points but doesn’t necessarily deliver them in a way that I’d agree with (campaign fodder for instance!).

    I think some of the point though has been missed. I posted on FB just now the following:

    “Young liberal organisations work best when their radicalism, innovation and commitment to idealism is appropriately expressed and successfully applies pressure on their mother party in a non-destructive way. Not when it disappears up the back-side of its mother party.”

    It makes me feel uncomfortable that points one and two on Harry’s list of priorities seem like organisational / federal-driven objectives.

    Our number one objective should be custodians of the liberal cause, because we are free from the burden of governance and can therefore act without all the restraints that our mother party has to.

    We ARE separate and should behave like we are – not so far as that we damage our party but certainly as far that we annoy them enough in a respected way that they listen.

    Recruitment and votes should be a positive by-product of that attitudes success, it is not our job.

  3. Bobby Dean says:

    I completely respect and sympathise with Harry’s view – he is not incorrect in his intentions. Equally, Calum alludes to some good points but doesn’t necessarily deliver them in a way that I’d agree with (campaign fodder for instance!).

    I think some of the point though has been missed. I posted on FB just now the following:

    “Young liberal organisations work best when their radicalism, innovation and commitment to idealism is appropriately expressed and successfully applies pressure on their mother party in a non-destructive way. Not when it disappears up the back-side of its mother party.”

    It makes me feel uncomfortable that points one and two on Harry’s list of priorities seem like organisational / federal-driven objectives.

    Our number one objective should be custodians of the liberal cause, because we are free from the burden of governance and can therefore act without all the restraints that our mother party has to.

    We ARE separate and should behave like we are – not so far as that we damage our party but certainly as far that we annoy them enough in a respected way that they listen.

    Recruitment and votes should be a positive by-product of that attitudes success, it is not our [main] job.

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