Josh Booth, the newly elected Cheshire Young Labour rep, reports on the recent North West Young Labour (NWYL) conference – one of the first tests of the popularity of Corbyn’s ideas within the formal structures of the Labour Party since his election. The victory of the left in the NWYL elections is an indication of things to come.
The recent North West Young Labour (NWYL) conference was a positive experience for all who attended, many of whom were new faces to Young Labour. I was pleased to hear continued optimism and drive from the Left of the party, including from both Tom Watson and Jeremy Corbyn when I spoke with them.
Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, opened the conference and received a positive response. Even after the election of Jeremy Corbyn, I am still getting used to having members support an anti-austerity, socialist Labour party. Questions given to Cat by the right of the party were generally without hidden agendas, which I believe is a testament to young members; you would be unlikely to hold a similar event with some of the PLP without some bitterness in every question asked. One member asked about whether Smith thought it was a good thing that organised groups are forming within the party (clearly a jab at Momentum), which was an exception; but for the most part there was a great deal of respect for political differences.
Prior to the conference, preparations for the NWYL committee elections had been going on for some time, and no one was ready to lose. There was undeniably an air of tension and excitement at the conference, this election being one of the first tests of the popularity of Corbyn’s ideas within the formal structures of the Labour Party since his election. In any case, with hundreds of young members in attendance (a record for the conference I believe), the day would have been a victory for democracy and a renewed interest in the Labour Party amongst young people, regardless of the result.
In the end the conference and the election was a victory for the left, which is a testament to the support for Corbyn’s policies and leadership. All of the Momentum candidates, bar one, were elected and I personally am honoured to have been elected as Cheshire rep. Unfortunately there was some negativity directed at the left of the party as a result of this. It is understandable that emotions were running high, but it was definitely disheartening to hear a group of members whispering to each other about “those f***ing Trots”.
The unsuccessful right-wing candidates claimed that running a slate of candidates is anti-democratic, which of course there is an argument for depending on the circumstances, whether it be for the left-wing or the right-wing. The real issue is the hypocrisy of these right-wing complaints, as it emerged that the right of the party had their own slate too, but this was only circulated to certain “trusted” members to avoid embarrassment and the exposure of their hypocrisy. Bureaucratic maneuvering and cloak-and-dagger politics is the antithesis of everything that Corbyn’s leadership represents. It is a shame that the right-wing of NWYL resorts to such methods and it is heartening to see that it did not wash with NWYL members.
When I interviewed Jeremy in August, I chatted with him briefly about the application of socialist and feminist theory in prisons (particularly women’s prisons) and the justice system, and I am delighted that he maintains his commitment to this. It is this principled and honest approach to politics in the face of Tory, media and right-wing attacks that will build unity within the party and support for Labour across the country.
The North West Young Labour conference showcased the growing membership thanks to the new leadership, and was a thoroughly enjoyable experience (with the exception of an underwhelming Halloween social event). I look forward to next year’s conference with renewed confidence in both the party and young members.
Josh Booth, North West Young Labour (Cheshire rep)