My experience as a candidate in the recent youth elections and the problems highlighted at youth conference have made it clear to me that the culture in our youth movement has to change. Working together, the brilliant new women chairs of Young Labour and Labour Students and I will give our youth movement the radical culture change it needs.
I never thought, as a woman from Liverpool with my background, I would stand for Labour’s NEC. People like me don’t normally stand for this position. We don’t usually make it through the door. Every step of the way, whether it was my teachers at school or the old white men in my CLP, I’ve been told the best I could hope for was marriage and a minimum wage.
It is women in the Labour Party and my trade union, the CWU, who encouraged me and helped me get involved. Now, I want to help other young working class women in the same way that others helped me.
Doing that requires a radical culture change for the Labour Party.
When being involved in Young Labour means spending hundreds of pounds to go to a conference, then something is badly wrong.
When BAME members, disabled members and women members say a Young Labour event is inaccessible we have an urgent duty to act.
When running for election means pushing myself into crippling debt, damaging my mental health, and facing some of the worst sexism I’ve ever encountered, then that’s not democracy – that’s a disgrace. I don’t want any candidate in future to go through what I and the other candidates – of all factions and none – experienced.
Letting this divisive environment continue risks putting a new generation of women off politics. That is not a risk I am willing to take.
We now have three young women leading our youth movement, which makes me really proud. I’m really looking forward to working with Young Labour’s brilliant new chair Caroline Hill and Labour Students’ excellent Kate Dearden. Together, we will tackle these challenges and make our youth movement one to be proud of.
Culture change shouldn’t just be limited to youth events –although that’s important. We need to support young members to get involved across the party.
As the NEC youth representative before me, Bex Bailey has been working hard to ensure that we stamp out the culture where sexism and sexual harassment that is so common as a result of political power play. I want to continue this work.
The Labour Party has a long way to go if we are to live up to our values as the party of equality. As the new NEC youth representative I will work with all our members and all our trade unions to ensure our youth movement leads the way for the rest of the party in changing our culture, ending internal divides and being the true party of equality.
Jasmin Beckett is Youth Representative on Labour’s NEC