Addressing controversial topics such as Labour’s commitment to the free movement of EU citizens and the party’s support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Young Labour held their 2017 National Youth Policy Conference at Warwick University on the 14th – 15th October.
Taking place over two days, the conference aimed to shape future national Labour Party policy. Participating were various University Labour Club delegates, regional delegates, trade unions and other affiliated groups.
Young Labour is the youth wing of the UK Labour Party. The membership of Young Labour is made up of every UK Labour Party member aged 14-26.
Jeremy Corbyn MP, the leader of the Labour Party, and Cat Smith MP, Shadow Secretary for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, attended the first day of the conference. Both thanked the energetic campaigning done by young Labour members across the country during the 2017 General Election.
The election saw a surge in voter registration among young voters with most 18-25 year olds voting Labour, and Labour winning in many university constituencies. Canterbury, a town with a high student population, voted Labour after almost a century of sending Conservative MPs to Westminster.
Cat Smith went on to encourage those attending to lobby their MP for the upcoming ‘Votes at 16’ bill, taking place on 3 November.
In total, there were 41 motions submitted. The motions were categorised in policy commissions focusing on a wide variety of topics from ‘Environment, Energy and Culture’to ‘Justice and Home Affairs’.
Day two saw the some of the most controversial and widely debated motions of the conference.
One motion, that passed after much debate and a close vote, called for Labour to support the withdrawal of the UK from NATO. Further controversial topics included the free movement of people across the EU and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
‘Defend and extend free movement’
This motion, part of the ‘Justice and Home Affairs’ policy commission, called for Labour Party to commit to ‘maintaining free movement in the EU on a permanent basis’ and to abolish financial requirements to immigration such as the controversial ‘no recourse to public funds; visa requirement’.
Those for the motion argued that national problems like falling wages, the housing crisis and overstretched services are ‘caused by the government and employers who are committed to making the rich richer by attacking working people’s condition’, and not by immigration.
Arguments against this policy included the assertion that it would not perform well electorally in the next General Election. There were also worries, among Young Labour members, over how this would be viewed by the working class, the very people Labour is ‘meant to defend’, with the traditional working class generally being against globalisation.
A delegate who was speaking for the motion argued that migrant workers are part of the working class too. They also spoke about how in the past two years, there has been a political shift to the left with a change in narrative on economics, and that Labour ‘should aim to change the narrative in migration too’.
After four intense round of speeches from both sides, the vote had to be manually counted and failed to pass (61 FOR, 87 AGAINST).
‘Peace and Justice – for a Palestine state alongside Israel’
Calling for the support of a two-state solution for peace in one of the most turbulent regions of the world, this motion ensued four rounds of passionate speeches from both sides.
Those in support called for a ‘truly independent Palestinian state with the same rights as Israel’. It also strived to build links between the two states and called for Labour’s support for ‘an immediate end to Israel’s occupation’.
A speaker who was against the motion called for a peaceful boycott of the Israeli occupation. Meanwhile another said that they do not think ethnic nationalism is ‘the most socialist or practical solution’.
Liron Velleman, Campaigns Manager of the Union of Jewish Students and Youth & Students Officer of Jewish Labour, spoke in favour of the motion.
He stated: ‘My Zionism, to clarify for those that use it as a term of abuse, my belief in the Jewish right to self-determination in the Land of Israel, stands side by side with the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. The Labour Party was instrumental in the foundation of the State of Israel and now should be instrumental in supporting a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure and prosperous Israel.’
The motion failed to pass with 54 for, 95 against and 23 abstentions.
Other notable motions that were passed were two motions on Free Education, ‘A Publicly Owned Banking System’, ‘Young Workers’ Rights’ and ‘Time for Trans Action’.
You can read all of the submitted motions of the weekend here.