By Lily Madigan, Rochester and Strood CLP Women’s Officer
The executive committee of the under 27 section of the Labour Party, Young Labour, recently reached out to their members (including me) with the simple question:should we submit a national conference motion on young people’s mental health; or one on the mandatory reselection of Labour MPs?
Reading through my Twitter feed I was surprised, not so much that some members decided to back the mental health motion, but at just how opposed to mandatory reselection some other young members seemed to be.
For the uninitiated, mandatory reselection is the idea that Labour MPs should have to convince their local members to reselect them to run for parliament before every general election. I don’t understand why this is so controversial.
Being an MP is an important role with a lot of responsibility and a big pay cheque to match. This shouldn’t be a factional issue as it is so often framed, but a reflection of the very party these MPs claim to represent.
It is about meritocracy, democracy and the fundamental truth that we should have the best Labour members on our benches.
Young Labour’s membership has surged since Corbyn became leader, bringing a new focus to the political power young people possess. We are the activists on the ground doing door-to-door canvassing and leafleting, making a difference in marginal seats and university towns. We saw ourselves represented in Labour’s 2017 manifesto that promised to abolish our tuition fees, fund our mental health services and create housing that we would have a hope of affording. The political landscape has undoubtedly changed in our favour, so why shouldn’t the makeup of our MPs?
The average age of an MP is 50, with only 14 (2%) aged 18–29, and the Labour Party having the most MPs over the age of 60. It’s unsurprising just how badly we’ve had it politically when the reality is we are horribly outmatched.
It’s essential the value we bring to our Party is recognised. We will suffer most from the depredation capitalism has caused our environment. It’s us who must endure the mistakes of the financial sector, rescued by mortgaging our future. It’s the young who will live harder lives than our parents because of the neo-liberalism pedalled by the Tories and the last Labour government. We are disproportionately likely to be in unpaid internships, zero hours jobs, and when we can get a job we are paid less than older people for the same work.
So yes, mental health is important, and this was reflected in the Labour manifesto with pledges that mental health funding would be increased and ring-fenced for the future, but ultimately, and the reason we must fight so hard for tuition fees; affordable housing; decent jobs; and yes, adequately funded mental health services, is because we are systematically under-represented in the House of Commons.
Young people have and will transform British politics, but we need to be on the benches and we need the chance to compete with other members for the limited number of seats within our party.
Mandatory reselection should be a priority for Young Labour not simply because we should be fighting for more young people in Parliamentary party positions, but because with it the political priorities of this country will shift markedly in our favour—and ultimately, they will shift left.
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• This article was originally published on Medium here and republished in the youth pages of Clarion 17 with Lily’s kind permission.