by Cat Smith
The dust has settled after a decisive result at Labour Youth Day in April. After years of campaigning for democracy in Young Labour we saw our first elections to the Young Labour National Committee, with the left making unprecedented gains.
The biggest victory of the day was the election of Sam Tarry as Young Labour Chair. Sam grasped the imagination and awoke the enthusiasm of a young left which organised effectively behind his campaign.
Sam said in his speech to the Conference that this was not just a personal victory, but a victory for the wider movement for change in Young Labour. There is a vibrant young left in the Labour Party but until now we have been denied the structures to elect our own representatives. We have seized our opportunity and elected a national figurehead who will stand up for the ideas and issues about which we are passionate.
Sam Tarry is perhaps best known for his leadership of Compass Youth and commitment to challenging the British National Party, but these factors alone were not behind my support for his campaign. He has a record of involvement with the Stop the War Coalition, defending Palestinians, speaking out against 42 days detention and ID Cards. Sam is active in the GMB and supports keeping the Royal Mail wholly publicly owned. He is a principled and straight-talking campaigner who pulled together a previously fragmented young left.
Despite standing on an honest, centre left manifesto promising to organise the Party’s youth wing and open it up to young progressives from across the socialist movement, Sam was elected uncontested after no other candidate came forward to challenge. The momentum behind his campaign was such that it would have been very difficult for the right to contest.
The Conference also elected Tulip Siddiq as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Officer and there were left victories in four of the regions and many of the trade union places on the committee. With a critical shift away from the previously Labour Students dominated Committee under the old appointed system, the young left now has the voice within the Labour Party that was denied us too long.
I know that I’m not alone in finding this a refreshing change from the old ‘choice’ between Blairite and Brownite. It has become obvious to me that a broad, inclusive left group cooperating and organising is the only way to save the Labour Party. Young Labour can now take the lead on directing the future of the Party, and we are in a stronger position to do this with a leadership which has genuine principles and has moved on from New Labour.
Looking to the future the first task for the new Young Labour National Committee must be to engage the membership which has been neglected. In many ways it is through no fault of their own that the old leadership was unable to run a truly national campaign. The system of appointments by the powers that be was never going to motivate activity. Young Labour must have a presence beyond a biannual youth conference and a reception at Annual Conference.
Young Labour can be the energetic, pioneering movement within the Labour Party that shows the way to championing the values of equality, democracy and solidarity. The road ahead is clear: we must move forward as a united left.
Left candidates who were elected:
Sam Tarry, Young Labouir Chair
Tulip Siddiq, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Rep
Tom Copley, London Rep
Tom Miller, South East Rep
Kate Fry, North West Rep
Joe Richies, Yorkshire & the Humber Rep