Labour National Youth Policy Conference 2017

As a Christians on the Left member and contributor, and current university student, I was pleased to represent CotL as the delegate to the Labour Party’s National Youth Policy Conference, hosted by Young Labour at the University of Warwick last weekend.

This year’s conference was devoted solely to forming policy, based on submissions from young members across the country. The policies adopted will be recommended to the National Policy Forum, and will form part of the Labour Party’s ongoing policy formation process.

There were over forty motions up for discussion on a wide range of issues, including the minimum wage, workers’ rights, housing, mental health, education and the environment. Christians on the Left is an organisation which itself contains a range of views on many issues, and as your representative, I did not find every voting decision straightforward. Many issues are very complicated, and the wording of some motions contains nuance. With just a single vote, it is hard to reflect the breadth of views and the subtlety some motions require. But after reflection and prayerful consideration of all the motions, I do feel I voted with care and with integrity on the motions before the conference. If you are interested in how I voted on a particular issue, please do email me (at cotlmatthewjudson@gmail.com) to discuss.

A number of motions that passed align with recent Christians on the Left campaigns: to trial a universal basic income scheme, to re-open the Dubs amendment, for overhaul of the housing market, and for a national mental health strategy. It was particularly encouraging to see a consensus emerge on these issues, and they vindicate the efforts that many young CotL members have put in to campaigning on issues they feel passionately about. It can feel lonely to fight for social justice, but it is rewarding and encouraging to see such steps forward. My prayer is that CotL would be blessed with more and more passionate young people willing to stand up for values of social justice, human dignity, and an economy that works for the many.

Aside from the mainstay, which was debating and voting on policy motions, the conference welcomed the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn MP. He spoke briefly and took a number of questions from the conference floor. We were also joined by CotL member Cat Smith MP, shadow minister for youth and voter engagement. She re-iterated her strong support for the Votes at 16 campaign, which Christians on the Left is part of and supported with a high-profile event at the recent Labour Party Conference (where Cat herself was amongst the speakers).

There were also various breakout sessions on a range of issues. Cat hosted one specifically on Votes at 16, while topics for others included student housing, trade union rights and political campaigning. I was pleased to support my colleague from the Jewish Labour Movement, attending his session on combatting anti-Semitism and engaging the Jewish community.

Another aspect of the conference was obviously the social one: I was obliged to mix and engage with other delegates. Fortunately, this was an activity I embraced with relish, helped along by the rather good food provided and the slightly surreal Labour-themed quiz after dinner on Saturday! I had several interesting discussions about Christians on the Left, our work, and more generally about faith and its impact on policy. Everyone I spoke to seemed friendly and open to discussion, and in fact the entire event carried a tone of good disagreement – some of the votes were fairly contentious, but by and large the debates were carried out in a constructive and conciliatory tone.

Overall, my main reflection is that it was hugely positive that Christians on the Left was represented at the event, inputting into policy discussions, making our voice heard and raising our profile among young members. We are looking forward to next year's event and hope this continues to stimulate more discussion on policy – we're hoping that Christians on the Left will be able to get our own motion debated next year. As always, please do contact myself (cotlmatthewjudson@gmail.com) or the office (info@christiansontheleft.org.uk) to find out more about what we are doing and how you can be involved. We’d love to hear from you!

Matthew Judson

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