Harriet Harman QC MP
22nd September 2006
Labour Students, Young Labour, the NEC Youth Rep and the Young Fabians all work incredibly hard to sustain the Labour Party’s vibrant youth wing.
However, if we are to appeal to young people and recruit and involve the next generation of Labour members and elected representatives, those at the top of the Party must think creatively about how we can achieve this.
· Offer 12 months free party membership to any young person under the age of 26 who joints an affiliated union.
· Set ambitious targets for young candidates at local elections.
· Start a Labour Club in every Further Education College.
· Build on the work we have done in the Department of Constitutional Affairs.
There are two strands to youth engagement. Firstly, what can we achieve as a Government to increase political participation amongst young people Increasing political involvement amongst young people is important in its own right and strengthens democracy. Secondly, there is what we can achieve as a Party. We often complain about the lack of young people joining the Labour Party, but how often do we actually ask them to join us - outside University Freshers’ Fairs.
Offer 12 months free party membership to all affiliated Union members under the age of 26.
When we talk about recruiting young people to the Labour Party we should look beyond University Campuses.
There are 16 Trade Unions affiliated to the Labour Party, with tens of thousands of members within the Young Labour age range of Under 26 years old.
We should offer these young union members 12 months free membership of the Labour Party, with a reduced rate for second year should they wish to remain in the party.
Of course not all the Union members we sign up this way will stay, but if just 1 in 10 choose to remain there will be a huge dividend for the Labour Party.
If we are to retain these young Union members we must have a wider debate on how we can change the way our Party works to interest and engage young members. We have to offer new members more than an ill attended Ward meeting and a load of indecipherable acronyms.
Set ambitious targets for young candidates at local elections.
There are some extremely able young councillors breaking through all over the country. However, we must recognise that it is difficult for young members to make the jump from being an activist to putting themselves forward for selection for local elections.
I believe we should work closely with colleagues in the ALC (Association of Labour Councillors) to draw up a set of ambitious targets for the number of young candidates selected to fight local elections (one of the great strengths of the team of councillors in Camberwell and Peckham is the age range – the oldest is 65 and the youngest is 25)
This targeting must go hand in hand with a mentoring scheme, so experienced party activists and councillors can offer support and encouragement to young members.
Start a Labour Club in every Further Education College.
Labour Students do a terrific job of supporting Labour Clubs in Campuses all over the UK, but as the number going to college increases and as the way young people organise their learning and training changes, so must the way we organise our Student organisation.
We must give Labour Students the resources and support to start up a Labour Club in every Further Education College in the country.
It is a huge task – but with the resources and organisation in place we could tap into a huge new pool of potential Labour Party members.
Building on our work in the Department of Constitutional Affairs.
In the Department of Constitutional Affairs we
- Changed the law to lower the age you can stand as a candidate for election from 21 years to 18 years.
- We worked with the London Mayor and community groups to increase the number of young people on the electoral register (one in five young Londoners who are eligible to vote cannot do so as they are not on the electoral register)
Possible future work could include:
· An extension of the Young Mayors scheme.
· Make sure Youth councils and the British Youth Parliament is accessible to all young people.
· Strengthen Citizenship curriculum in schools.
· Continue pilots for making it easier to register and easier to vote.