The Libertine has interviewed the new members of the Liberal Youth exec on a range of topics, in order to keep you in the loop. Here is the first in the series, an interview with our new Communications Officer, Steven Haynes (and my new boss).
1) What is the first thing you will do in office?
The first thing I’m going to look at is how we’re using the LY website. The website is going to be the first point of contact many people have with the organisation and it needs to be 1) actually working and 2) reflective of the activities that Liberal Youth is pursuing.
I also want to start turning the website into a resource in and of itself for members of LY. Some training modules covering the basics of campaigning, how to run effective email campaigns and fresher’s stalls are the sorts of things I want to see on there.
Then it’s moving onto the general audit of how we’re going about communications with members and working out how we can make people get involved more.
2) Is there anything you would like to say to the other candidate(s)? Is there anyone else you would like to thank, or pay tribute to?
Keep your chin up RON! Someday soon you’ll win!
3) What do you think is the main challenge facing Liberal Youth?
The main challenge facing Liberal Youth is the lack of engagement with members. To deal with that we need to turn the organisation into something that people want to seek out. Hence why I think we need training modules and advice on the website as they’re practical things that people can use which not only help them but build an image of LY being a useful organisation to belong to.
4) Turnout has risen in this election – how do we take advantage of this and increase involvement in Liberal Youth?
To take advantage of the higher turnout involves us being quick off of the mark and sending out communications informing people of results of the election ( more people have voted so more people have an interest in the result automatically) and then we need to quickly have something for them to get involved with whilst we still have their attention.
5) How do you see Liberal Youth acting in relation to the main party?
LY is autonomous of the main party and should spend its time campaigning on issues that are important to its members. That said, for me I’m a Liberal Democrat first and a member of Liberal Youth second and as important as campaigning on things our members want is I also think we need to be campaigning for the Lib Dems as a whole as well. We need them, and they should need us. If we can build up a mutual relationship we’ll be more effective and more successful.
6) Tuition Fees.
Opening up the argument on tuition fees is to open up the argument on how universities are funded. Across the nation, universities are making cuts to their teaching budgets already and to create uncertainty about how much money they will be getting is just going to aggravate the situation. We should move on from tuition fees as it’s just a political noose around our neck and to provide universities with some certainty about how much money they’re going to be getting over the next decade or so.
If Liberal Youth and the Liberal Democrats want to help students then there a multiple ways to do it. We can find ways to ensure that students are getting value for money from their courses, that Universities are using fees for books in the library rather than Vice Chancellor’s pay rises. We should definitely (regardless of what we decide to do about tuition fees ) look into ways of lowering the costs of living at university as many maintenance loans and grants don’t even cover the cost of halls. Overall though I really do think we need to move on from tuition fees. Scrapping them just isn’t achievable. The Tories won’t do it, and Labour, even in opposition, have only said they would lower them to 6k ( thus causing funding short falls and more cuts to courses). Sometimes you have to pick and choose the battles you fight, and if the battle is going to open up old wounds with no real benefit it’s best to make a strategic withdrawal. Renewing our commitment to scrapping tuition fees is a battle we can’t win and offers us very little benefit. We should walk away. A lot of people may not like that response but you asked for my opinion and there it is in black and white.
7) How do you see the exec relating to members, local branches, regions and devolved nations?
The relationship between the Federal Exec and everyone else should be that of a parent who’s just sent their kids off to university. As much as we might want to phone up every day and check they aren’t existing solely on pot-noodles, our job isn’t to micromanage, it’s to help people get set up on their own and to build their own networks and connections so they can campaign and recruit more effectively in their areas. Then if they have an issue, we can help. Fostering independent branches and unions should be the goal as it’ll breed a much better and more active liberal youth for everyone.
8) How will we know your term was a success?
If I don’t get kicked out I’ll consider my term a success. Seriously though, as my main focus is just trying to improve communications and the website then judge me on that. I’m not going to set out a specific metric and say that if I haven’t double click through rates from emails then my term will be a failure. Engagement, communications strategies and campaigning are all long term things. If the person who comes after me has a good foundation to communicate with the membership then I’ll consider my job a success. Whether other people would agree with that is up to them.
Steven Haynes is our new Communications Officer.