The importance of new faces in Liberal Youth

Every incarnation of Liberal Youth has had the exact same problems: egos, an unnatural obsession with constitutions and a party-within-a-party mentality. Members of the Liberal Democrats almost expect Liberal Youth to fail at some point, which isn’t a healthy foundation for us to build upon.

I believe these recurring problems are the result of a very easily fixable problem. There is a narrow pool of people interested in standing time after time: The Liberal Youth Clique. There are many people who want Liberal Youth to succeed and become a vital campaigning and recruitment force within the Liberal Democrats.

I do believe in the past six months we have worked hard to campaign for the party in key seats like Eastleigh as well as the May elections programme, The Gold Guard. We’ve also successfully lobbied Nick Clegg to answer our questions about immigration. Things can really change in Liberal Youth to make it a remarkable campaigns and recruitment force within the party but this requires diversity. Diversity of gender, race, ability and experience.

Diversity of experience is crucial to drive forward campaigns. Activists are most passionate about campaigns that have directly affected them and if the Liberal Youth executive is a group of pale university educated men, that understanding and passion is limited. People in Liberal Youth follow on to be on federal committees, lifelong campaigners and some hold political office. Future decision makers need to be nurtured in an environment where people come from different backgrounds.

If you have different life experiences to the Liberal Youth norm, if you have been in Further Education, NEET, are still at school or a young professional please do put a nomination in. New ideas blossom from new faces and their life experiences. We need to demonstrate to the Liberal Democrats the need for better representation. We can achieve that without positive discrimination and we can prove to the party that the future is diverse.

If you think Liberal Youth is a platform for ego massaging and constitutional obsessions then please stand. Get involved in Liberal Youth and change it. I always thought it was a waste of time and effort but six months as co-Chair has convinced me there is an appetite to campaign and recruit. There is an appetite for a activism but it needs the best and brightest young Lib Dems and students to make that change. Please make a difference to Liberal Youth and put in a nomination form.

Nominations close Friday 19 April at midnight. Further information on how to stand can be found here.


* Kavya is a Liberal Democrat activist in Scotland and London. She is a former co-Chair of Liberal Youth and a Board Member of Liberal Reform.

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  • Looking in from the outside the general view of Liberal Youth is that:
    a) It does very little to help with on the ground campaigning. Many promises, rarely delivered.
    b) would prefer to campaign for irrelevant chairs, so-chairs, and other made up positions rather than actually do anything productive.
    c) It has a truly awful name, my cousin wanted to join the Lib Dem students and he said to me after he went along to his freshers fair, “I couldn’t find them, there were some weird group called Liberal Youth,but there more like the Hitler Youth, Ha Ha”. The name really needs to have Lib Dem somewhere in it – what about: Lib Dem 18-30, Lib Dem Students and Young People or Lib Dem Forward.
    Sorry is quite negative, but I suspect you ask most paid employees of the party and they would say the same about Liberal Youth!

  • “The name really needs to have Lib Dem somewhere in it – what about: Lib Dem 18-30 …”

    So that would be a bit like Club 18-30, except based around handing out leaflets in the drizzle, rather than sex-fuelled Mediterranean raves?

  • Jonathan Brown 18th Apr '13 - 11:06pm

    I joined the party almost 3 years ago and was too old to join Liberal Youth by the time I realised that it existed. I do get the impression though that the organisation has been doing a lot more to campaign in recent months. So congratulations to all involved with these developments.

    As for a name, how about ‘Young Liberal Democrats’? It’s clear what it is; it doesn’t have negative ‘yoof of today’ connotations and it has the party name in it.

    It also taps into a well established ‘Young X’ meme that goes back at least to the ‘Young Turks’ that gave us the expression. And which also suggests a headstrong, radical future for it’s members.

  • Yes, the name is clearly the major problem! Changing it fixed everything last time. And the time before that.

  • The change the time before that was on the merger of the separate youth & student wings – and that did “fix” quite a few things (in so far as that sort of change can fix anything).

  • Generally I have nothing against the Liberal Youth, but I think more needs to be done, so that members outside of London feel really engaged. IE: spreading short cmapaigning focuses (specifically for the Lib Youth), articles and other such things sheets via e-mail and social forums among the group would help members feel slightly more engaged and if you could get members to share them on sites like Facebook, it may even raise the group’s profile. These do not need to be fancy or complicated, just easy to read things like “10 reasons to vote Lib Dem” and “10 things UKIP did recently”…etc or articules written on current affairs by group members. If you could even enable the average members to get involved in writing and forming these articles, then that could really help re-engage those who disconnected right now.

    I also think that the Lib Dem Youth needs to more activily engage with local parties and universities, by setting up small social activities and forums for members to meet at; this is so that, as an organisation, Liberal Youth can draw from a wider pool than it currently is.

    On the campaigning front, well, no complaints there, you guys seem to be working hard, but ensure you let the members at large know. Right now, too many Liberal Youth members simply have no idea what is going on.

    Finally, rightly or wrongly, there is a feeling among those outside the Lib Youths inner-circle, that those in that central group do have a habit of using it as personal tool for raising their own profile among the party, rather than as a way to engage other new members. This is a feeling that I think needs tackling, as it will only put prospective members off joining.

    PS I admit, while the name is not massively important, it is not one I am a fan of.

  • PS Sorry about the confused structure of my comments. I was writing very quickly during my lunch.

  • Great go for it. We need a strong Liberal Youth. Also, I support you challenging the party leadership!

  • Aaaaaaargh. Great article Kavya, all the problems cited below are ones that you are clearly seeking to address…

  • I liked Tony’s comments about the campaigning. Although my time in SYLD isn’t as long ago as Tony’s in the YLs (only 20 years or so ago now….aaarghh….) we still looked to them as a model of how to campaign. For example, people still talk about the “abolish the monarchy” and “legalise cannabis” debates at the 1994 Brighton conference – both of which (from what I recall) were Lib Dem Youth & Students’ motions (with support from us in Scotland.) We tried to cooperate where necessary but weren’t afraid to shout out publicly if we didn’t like what the leader was doing on issues we were concerned about, and I think this is where Liberal Youth does sometimes fall down – it has the opportunity to be the conscience of the party, but it can’t do it if it’s looking over its shoulder all the time.

  • I’ve never been involved in Liberal Youth, but I’m a young(ish) member of the party, and I think we need to acknowledge that Liberal Youth have made huge leaps forward over the past 12 months.

    Having so many young volunteers at Eastleigh was a huge boost to the campaign, and only last week we welcomed over 20 young people from across the country to our action day in Sheffield – hardly in the London bubble.
    For a long time, LY has been about Freshers’ fair, conferences and inward-looking debates. Now, LY are giving members training, organising campaign events which really make a difference and having open debates.

    Social media has been a big driver of this change, but I think the rest of the party need to give young members a bit of credit for turning a troubled organisation into a campaigning machine.

  • I used to be in ULS in the early 80s, though it was more of a social thing since there were so few Liberals where I studied that we were more or less fully integrated into the constituency party, and any local younger members just came along with us if they wants to. But why reinvent a wheel? The name Young Liberals does it all and has a resonance, it seems to me.

  • @Mike: If that is the case, that is great to hear.

  • Katie Wetherall 20th Apr '13 - 4:19pm

    In terms of Liberal Youth campaigning for the Lib Dems – i think the point is that we are young people, often we’re tied up in school, university or whatever and maybe we cant contribute as much as paid employees for the party – and of course we’re not paid. As much as I would love love love to be able to travel to a different part of the UK every weekend, for action days, I can’t – I’m only 17, I have school I have to work at the weekends and not only is it expensive but staying with complete strangers is a bit of a big thing. So i think alot of the Liberal Youth people have to juggle alot of this, and so maybe the work we do is less well know. I personally help out my local party as much as I can after school, and I know loads of other people play a massive role in their local party as well as in other action days in the UK. My point is that from what I’ve seen, Liberal Youth work as hard as they can, and they really don’t get enough credit. It is unfortunate that the elections for Liberal Youth are around the same time as County Elections, and to me I don’t see the point endlessly trying to get people to vote for me on twitter by constantly taking about #LYelects. I’m a new face to Liberal Youth, and I hope I can do the very best possible for the organisation (I’m running for International Committee) and looking into this I really don’t want to be swept up by the manicness of campaigning and offering promises that don’t mean anything. I’m inspired about working so so hard for the Lib Dems – but that doesn’t mean all I’ll be doing is talking about myself on twitter. 🙂

  • Paul Pettinger 21st Apr '13 - 12:45pm

    Almost everyone will have a view on Liberal Youth . Stick to your own path.

  • Andrew Martin 24th Apr '13 - 12:33pm

    This is a great article in many ways.
    Not an expert on LY as in Cambridge we operate quite autonomously (CSLD) but I have to say that so far I’ve been impressed with the current co-chairs. Please keep it up.

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