Next year, youth elections will be held for Young Labour. BAME Labour asked young BAME Labour members questions that they wanted to ask the candidates. We forwarded them to candidates for National Chair of Young Labour, the NEC Youth Rep and London Young Labour Chair. Here are their responses.
James Elliot is running for NEC Youth Rep. The National Executive Committee (NEC) is the governing body of the Labour Party and is comprised of representatives from the various sections of the Labour movement: CLPs, affiliates, trade unions and politicians. The NEC Youth Rep is the voice of young members, Labour Students and the young trade unionists at the highest level of the Party.
What will you do to increase no. of BAME exec members?
Young Labour, like the rest of our party, clearly has a problem with the underrepresentation of BAME members, and so it is important to start by recognising that the issue is one for the whole party and not just Young Labour to confront, and while the equalities academy in January is a great step forwards to addressing some of these issues, but it’s clear we need to do much more.
If elected, firstly I would like work with the BAME Officer and BAME Labour to conduct a survey of Young Labour members who self-define as BAME to investigate and nail down exactly what barriers exist at each level of representation, and give BAME members themselves the opportunity to put ideas forward for changing this. I’m also proud to be supporting a number of BAME candidates for the national committee this year and I hope they succeed in their efforts to increase BAME representation on the committee.
Secondly, I think it’s very important that spaces feel welcoming to BAME members, and that means taking a very clear stance against racism in our own spaces. Young Labour needs to be at the forefront of struggles against racism in our society, and not be afraid to call it out wherever we see it.
How will you diversify socials?
I think it’s important to note that we have a real problem in the Labour Party with social events, and by extension political events, being oriented around a drinking culture and that leads to excluding people. I’d like to work with the BAME officer and BAME Labour in planning how we can ensure that spaces at our events are more accessible to all our members, and that may mean that some events need to change.
We need to make sure that Young Labour socials offer a variety of things, and aren’t held in places which prevent some young members from attending.
Would you consider implementing targets for BAME membership?
100%, yes. Without targets to achieve equal representation for all underrepresented groups we’ll struggle to measure how well our efforts are succeeding.
What are your views on BAME shortlists?
Anyone who looks at the fantastic record of All-Women Shortlists in increasing women’s representation in parliament will know how successful they have been - and I’d definitely support wider use of BAME shortlists for candidates to ensure our party is more representative. That said, we have to look at the deeper structural issues that prevent BAME representation in the party.
James is one of two candidates running for NEC Youth Rep. To read the other candidate, Jasmin Beckett's response, click here.