Over the last few days, I have seen the vibrant discussion our members have been having on social media about the far-reaching changes we are bringing to Labour Students.
I was elected with a vision of a dynamic, transparent and more democratic Labour Students that learnt the lessons of its past and prepared for a better future. I am pleased to see so many of you offer your thoughts on how we achieve this vision together and I am proud that, for the most part, this has been done in a constructive and comradely manner.
Of all the radical changes being made to Labour Students under my leadership, the most crucial is bringing a one member one vote system to our democracy. Every single student, apprentice and learner who shares in our belief for a better world deserves an equal voice in our organisation.
Our members will be aware that this value was finally codified into our democratic structures at National Council in December, where we voted unanimously to ratify a new Labour Students constitution.
Since December, we have been hard at work fighting for our values on the ground. We mobilised the renowned Labour Students campaign machine to take on the Tories in Copeland and successfully kicked UKIP out of Stoke. Thank you to all our Labour Clubs and members that contributed hundreds of hours of campaigning in both by-elections. Additionally, only last night, after a year of lobbying we saw the success of our #AMillionMoreVoices priority campaign, when the House of Lords voted to bring automatic voter registration into the government’s HE Bill.
We have also been working exceptionally hard, since Christmas and before, to prepare our organisation for a national ballot of our tens of thousands of members. We have rethought our strategic plan and annual calendar, and budgeted accordingly, so that our organisation is best placed to tackle the challenges of a new type of national election.
Last week, we convened Labour Students National Committee at Labour Party headquarters in London to discuss a number of these challenges. The most significant of these is that due to the way the Labour Party stores student data, an unknown number of active and passionate Labour Students across the country would not get a vote in an online election.
The Labour Students National Committee agreed unanimously to request urgent clarity from the General Secretary of the Labour Party as to how this situation has occurred, and what steps can be taken to resolve it.
I’m pleased that within less than a week we have already received a response from the General Secretary, who has asked the relevant Head Office staff to help us address this issue as a matter of priority.
Seeking these answers from the Labour Party, so we can fix the problems we’ve inherited, is neither a plea for help nor an admission of failure. It is the action of a responsible National Office which is committed to giving all our members a vote.
I will not accept that myself, and the other National Officers are criticised because we have been bold enough to share these challenges. The decisions we made as a committee last week were in response to a clear challenge, and they were valid ones. I will not stand by as accountability in Labour Students crosses the line and becomes abuse. It is regrettable that members have been fed misinformation on this complex issue from a small number determined to undermine officers.
I am the first National Chair to introduce one member one vote to Labour Students, and I stand proud in that decision. With the answers we receive from the Labour Party we will fix the problems we’ve inherited and press ahead with OMOV. I know we can work to resolve these challenges as soon as possible, and be confident that every single student in the Labour Party is enfranchised in our democratic structures.
The standard we set in this election will be the standard we expect from Labour Students’ democracy in the future, and I know that our members agree that we need to get this right.
Kate Dearden is the National Chair of Labour Students