Do you owe the Young Liberals any money?

There was a bit of late night amusement over the weekend as the Young Liberals publicised this page on their website inviting all of us to pay a penance if we had referred to them by their organisation’s previous name:

(Image shows two tweets, one by me, saying “We have all done this at some point so we should all give something. Everyone deserves to be referred to by their name. My problem is that this has now reminded me of its former incarnation which I thought I had expunged from my brain.” Laura Gordon replies saying “Setting up the page like that is basically entrapment, but, you know what, well played, English Young Liberals.”`)

The reason that this became an issue is that some senior figures in the party who should know better submitted a motion to Conference with the former name in it. I suspect that the Federal Conference Committee will kindly resolve this by way of a drafting amendment so nobody will ever know unless they read this article.

I did give them a small donation, and if we all did that, it would make a big difference to their campaigns on housing and mental health. 

This got me thinking about all the previous generations of the organisation. I joined the Young Social Democrats back in 1983. I think I was the most northern member at the time. It was a bit of a novelty for my central belt based colleagues to have someone up in Caithness. That organisation distinguished itself with the slogan “Have you got the guts to vote SDP?” The equivalent organisation in the Liberal Party was the Young Liberals.

I was instinctively a Liberal rather than a Social Democrat. Primarily it was issues around freedom, civil liberties and human rights that motivated me. However, I chose to join the SDP because in Caithness their average age was around 50 while the average age of the Liberals was a lot older than that.

Immediately after the merger, there were separate youth and student organisations in England. By 1993, they merged to formLDYS (Liberal Democrat Youth and Students). They were brilliant challengers of the establishment and their attempt to abolish the monarchy and legalise cannabis at the 1994 Brighton conference was immortalised in the Glee Club song “The week we went to Brighton”. The tune for that came from the surprise 1980 Fiddlers Dram hit The Day we went to Bangor.

In 2008, the organisation rebranded as The Name We Are Not Allowed to Say before going back to the original (dating back from 1903) name of Young Liberals.

It is so important that the voices of young people are part of all our decision making processes. If you join the party and you are under 26, you are automatically a member of the organisation, which has a special status which means that it can submit motions to Conference in its own right and has a seat on Federal Board.

In the wake of the election review, there will be moves to slim down the size of the Federal Board. Whatever happens, we need to make sure that we preserve the status of groups such as the Young Liberals and hardwire their rights to be consulted in key decisions into whatever system emerges.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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