Since the start of this episode of #lyelects Twitter has been a bit of a depressing place to be. As far as Liberal Youth has come over the past year, at any moment we could return to the youth wing of old, where infighting and spatting at one another were common.
I am unfortunate to have been one of the members who were around at this time. It wasn’t pleasant. The LY leadership of old – the ‘old guard’ – seemed to welcome infighting between members, as it meant no attention or pressure was put on them, and they could sit around doing very little. For 5-6 years I witnessed an in-clique exec that made no effort at all to engage with the members it represented. I know, because I was one of those ordinary members.
It is no surprise to me that at a time when Sarah Harding has announced her candidacy for Chair the infighting has returned. Although I know that Sarah would rather get on with the job than infight, she has a worrying amount of backing from the worst of the times back then. And it is their attitudes, their unwavering pride at the lethargic youth wing of old that worries me. And as much as I appreciate that LY members don’t like to take their elections too seriously, it should worry you too.
Because the ‘old guard’ who led Liberal Youth in the past don’t care about us taking a backwards step. All they care about is their BFF getting elected. They won’t be afraid of shouting about it, or shouting at me for giving my opinion on how they lead our organisation to almost nothing.
Liberal Youth members may have seen my blog posts in the past, and the forthright way in which I stood for Chair at the start of this year. I have never held back the punches and always made genuine points that, even as I write this, no one has been able to give a single decent argument against. I made the point that we should be wary of turning our members into just campaign fodder, or we risk losing the whole point of having a democratic youth wing. I said we need to be more autonomous as an organisation, challenging the way in which Lib Dem HQ made strategic decisions on our Freshers materials last year. I said we needed to branch out to Further Education if we were ever going to grow and develop. As Campaigns Officer for LY I did the latter, showing that the priorities I put forward are achievable.
We’ve come so far recently. I fear more than anything that Liberal Youth will return to the days where the HE-centric executive committee spends time ‘partying’ at our national events rather than engaging with our first time attendees. Where the executive dismisses anyone who suggests an improvement. Where committee members spend more time networking with MPs than actually doing the jobs they’ve been elected to do. These are not concerns I have plucked out of thin air. This is what happened before, and what could happen again unless we elect people who know better.
Some of the people standing for re-election in the upcoming elections havent turned up to an exec meeting this year, or actually achieved anything – a reminder that we have not completely left the Liberal Youth of old behind. If you don’t have total confidence in those standing both as people and as potential leaders of our youth wing then RON them and don’t hesitate. Because, to put it bluntly, not having an executive for a year would be better than going back to what we were.
Whoever does get elected though must realise that members like myself will always be keeping watch. We are critical friends of Liberal Youth; supporting officers in their positive endeavors, but not being afraid to speak out when the leadership isn’t up to scratch. We are not here to bitch and moan at our executive or other members, yet we will not refrain from exercising our democratic rights should the situation demand it.
I have always believed that winning an election doesn’t deserve celebration. All you’ve been given is the opportunity to represent your electorate. Nothing more, nothing less. If you do get elected, get straight on with achieving what you have promised, and more. If you do, I’ll be the first to buy you a pint.
* I should probably point out that the print screen of Twitter was taken by someone else, who I then stole it off.