As a former Chair of Leeds Labour Club, I read the article on our supposed “dubious tactics” with great interest. Last year, under my tenure as Chair of Leeds Labour Club, we were described by the BBC as “the Labour Machine.” A reference which we have adopted in a very tongue-in-cheek way. But why were we called this?
It was during the Police and Crime Commissioner elections, where Leeds Labour club had got together volunteers to help the Labour candidate be elected. In the face of the Conservative and Liberal Democrats in Government cutting policing in Leeds by 20%, members of the party volunteered their time to talk to people, and hopefully to persuade as many as possible that voting in this election is vital to help save our local policing.
With the Tory and LibDem cuts to policing threatening an increase in burglary rates, violence against women and safety in the city – I’m confused as to how mass volunteering to campaign against this was deemed such a cynical thing. The Conservatives have money, donated by various rich donors which they can throw at elections. Labour is made up of ordinary people, people who can’t just write a cheque, so we organise, and people donate their time instead. This is democracy in action and is something I will never apologise for.
The attack article also states that Leeds Labour Club is the most influential group on campus. I’m not sure if that’s true (I certainly hope so!), but if so, why are we the most influential group on campus? It’s because every year hundreds of students sign up to the club. It is Labour standing up to the Conservatives who are privatising our NHS, gagging charities and bringing back fox hunting, and it is Labour who is standing up against the Liberal Democrats who introduced £9000 tuition fees, abolished EMA and are enabling the most ideological right wing Government this country has seen in a generation.
If Leeds Labour Club is that influential, it is because students have decided it should be. Students are free so join the Conservative or Liberal Democrat student movement if they wish or indeed any other society and increase their influence group on campus – but people have voted with their feet. The article also accuses Leeds Labour of ‘grubby backroom deals’ when deciding who to endorse for the leadership race – which as the article rightly points out – many societies do and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with societies backing candidates.
However, every year Leeds Labour (taking their role as the largest political society on campus seriously) arranges a hustings before we choose who to endorse. Anyone can attend these hustings, advertised on Facebook, and all candidates are invited before the committee votes on who to support. Nobody is obliged to vote for anyone, and in fact these hustings are attended by many non-Labour Party members who will vote for whoever impresses the most at these hustings.
I noticed that the author of the article has ‘liked’ the page of the Conservative Party on Facebook. It is rather dubious to make an attack on a political party from a supposed apolitical stand point, when in reality the author’s problem is in the ideology of the Labour Party. Frankly I find it a worrying trend for anyone to dismiss an election where they don’t like the winner as anti-democratic. And finally, the accusation that a student union leader recommended that students vote Labour – when the Liberal Democrats are trebling tuition fees, pricing people out of education and even mooting that maybe students should start paying Council Tax and the Conservatives are cutting funding to Universities while giving tax cuts to millionaires – I would hope that all student leaders are recommending a vote for Labour, as Labour is the only party which can kick this awful Government out.
Jonathan was chair of Leeds Labour Students from 2012-2013 and is now Labour’s candidate for Headingley on the council elections on Thursday May 22nd this year.