6th September 2012
Cllr Keir Morrison, Sherwood CLP, argues for a recruitment campaign among young workers and the young unemployed
Having joined the Labour Party as an 18 year old youth in 2006 I have had my fair share of ups and downs. I constantly wonder why on earth as a 24 year old how I ended up so involved in politics. Most of my friends think I’m crazy and have grown old before my time. The thought of mentioning politics or anything associated with it is enough to bore them into quickly finishing their drink and making for the exit to go for a sneaky fag.
These regular occurrences have got me thinking how the Labour Party can reach out to ordinary young people who quite frankly couldn’t give a monkeys about politics, and potentially recruit them as new members.
I believe that I, along with my younger brother Lachlan, am something of a rare breed within the Labour Party. We were encouraged as teenagers to question, debate and get involved with the Labour and trade union movement by our father who was a striking coal miner and very political. However, neither of us ever went on to study at university and I only managed to pass 4 of my GCSEs when I left school. Besides, even if I were blessed academically the chances are I wouldn’t have been able to afford to go to university anyway. I work with paint and buckets every day as a painter and decorator, so when I was asked back in 2010 to stand as a Labour district council candidate, I laughed.
I laughed because I didn’t understand the political lingo, lacked in confidence, had previously experienced age discrimination within our local Labour Party and thought that I wasn’t “qualified” enough to be a councillor (I didn’t know exactly what a councillor was). I eventually bit the bullet and stood for the local district council election May 2011. Weeks prior to election day, an incident occurred where I was splashed in the national media in an attempt to defame my character. This helped me even further in boosting my profile and I believe actually won me votes from like-minded people in my ward (there were a lot of them). The perpetrator that leaked/sold the picture to the press well and truly cooked the humble pie and ate it with custard when I was duly elected alongside my brother and father. This, to the best of my knowledge, was the first time 2 brothers and a father had been elected at the same time since the legendary Skinner family and is one of the proudest moments of my life.
So what steps can the party take in order to recruit ordinary young people?
Don’t focus as much on floating around student unions. Here, potential members will fall into their laps, as students are traditionally already politicised by their involvement in student union elections.
Do send reps onto building sites, factories, salons, supermarkets and garages to speak to young apprentices. While I acknowledge it is important to recruit students and academic youngsters, it is also important to recruit ordinary young people too – the “forgotten generation” – whether that be through the trade unions, the community or any other means.
There are over a million unemployed youngsters in this country who feel very little hope, most of them apathetic towards politics with no direction and no idea of how politics can help them in their lives and communities. A lot of them don’t know how to vote even if they want to. It is therefore our responsibility to reach out to these people and explain how their local councils and government decisions affect their lives. We need to inform them as to why being a Labour Party member would be in their best interests, and give them the confidence to be a part of the future of this country.
Politics is an uphill struggle all the way and if Labour wants to return back to government in 2015 it needs to ensure it recruits its fair share of ordinary young people. We can’t afford to let these people grow old in political apathy and despair. Ed Miliband and his team recognise this problem and I hope they take action to address it. I have the utmost confidence in them doing so.
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