Interview: Conor McKenzie, International Officer

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 next in the series, an interview with our new International Officer, Conor McKenzie.

1) What is the first thing you will do in office?

I’ve already done quite a bit! I have nearly completed the ‘January’ section of my 6-month plan, having done handover with Sam, organising the first International Committee meeting and introducing myself to LYI’s contacts at IFLRY and LYMEC. We’re already looking into things under the ‘February’ section! Now I’d really like to look into furthering our campaign on Belarus though and get a forum event going with LIBG for March.

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?

I dropped Owen a Facebook message the day before the polls closed just saying ‘good luck’, that I thought he ran a good campaign and I was impressed with the ideas that have come out of the election. I look forward to working with Owen in the future!

I owe Ab a lot of thanks, we were in constant contact throughout the election (little surprise there) and she was full of ideas for what Liberal Youth International could be doing, which were of course included in my campaign. Maria Efimova, Yabloko Youth’s International Officer, was very helpful too – we’ve talked quite a lot since I got in contact with her as an InterComm member back in October and I look forward to hopefully working with our Russian counterparts more!

3) What do you think is the main challenge facing Liberal Youth?

We certainly need to address our membership problem and look into ways of engaging our membership better. I have no criticisms of what Liberal Youth are doing, we’re easily the best youth wing, but we can be a hell of a lot better! Getting more campaign action days rolled out is somewhere to start – we should get something for going for the county council elections this year but not forget about the importance of our own campaigns, after all these are what really set us out from the other youth wings – we’re not some sycophantic young party members who enjoy nothing more than shoving leaflets through doors and getting pictures with ministers (not all of us anyway :P).

4) Turnout has risen in this election – how do we take advantage of this and increase involvement in Liberal Youth?

Turnout was a great improvement, though only a fraction of what it should be. Online voting is definitely the way forward and the hype that was created over social media worked very well in enthusing people to vote! It is clear that now we need to use social media more to shout about how awesome we are, but we should also give people more of a reason to vote for people. There are still a significant number of under-26 members who bury their heads in their local parties as they don’t understand exactly what we do (I used to be one of those people for my first 3 years of joining).

5) How do you see Liberal Youth acting in relation to the main party?

I completely dismiss the thought that Liberal Youth should disaffiliate from the party – although it might have some benefits, particularly concerning our engaged membership – we have a lot to owe the party. Over the past year as the England Convenor, I’ve worked closely with the English Party through the English Council Executive and I’ve gotten to know some the party’s regional chairs pretty will – many realise how much of an asset we are, how much more potential we are and would give us more funding if they could. Although the relationship could be better, we need to utilise our relationship with the party, getting them more councillors, MPs and MEPs, but we should remember this isn’t our only purpose; we have some brilliant policy and campaigns which are brilliant for engaging more young people, as our Bears for Belarus campaign has shown only too well.

6) Tuition Fees.

Yay! Every Liberal Democrat’s favourite topic!

I don’t regret it being a manifesto pledge in 2010, I have every confidence that we would have fulfilled it had we of won, however we didn’t and with the deficit being very crucial to cut it would have been daft to suggest that the coalition could abolish fees, maintain Higher Education investment and cut the deficit at the rate the it’s currently being done at. I am extremely happy that I will be going to university in September with a better, fairer and more progressive tuition fees system.

7) How do you see the exec relating to members, local branches, regions and devolved nations?

More contact needs to be made, that’s obvious, but it can’t always be easy to actually do. I think the Liberal Youth Chatbox on Facebook is a brilliant idea, even if I don’t use it half as much as I perhaps should, but there are other ways we can do this too! One thing that I had in mind back in May last year was Google Hangouts with particular exec members so members can tell exec members what they think and where they’d like to see that portfolio and Liberal Youth more generally go. This would work really well with the Policy Officer and Campaigns Officer – I’m only more confident that this could work having seen the success of the LY Chair’s hustings for this election and the Party’s Minister Webinars. What’s more, we need to convince more members to come to conference and get back to the good days where we had attendance into the triple-figures (easier said than done!).

8) How will we know your term was a success?

A great indication will be if I fulfil my 6-month plan, to which I am confident many members actually voted on. It’s bursting with ambitious, yet achievable ideas that will go a long way to taking Liberal Youth’s international presence further. I aim to get at least one campaign event going, two international themed events, get more members to LYMEC/IFLRY events and an international motion submitted to Liberal Democrat Conference in Glasgow. Oh, and I’d like at least 300 followers on our Twitter page – so follow it now @LYInternational!!

Conor McKenzie is our new International Officer.


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