The party is listening to young people

Among Liberal Youth members’ criticisms of the recent York Conference, there is the frequent accusation of inherent ageism against the younger members of the party; as a 23 year old ‘young’ member I find this is overstated. Whilst there was one notable instance in a debate of a young man being called ‘naïve’, this is by no means the norm. Furthermore, the reaction in the room seemed to show the audience siding with the younger member. Of course there are members who dismiss the opinions of those younger than themselves, however to place this at the feet of the party itself is misguided. We cannot align some less-than-polite tweets and comments on social media with the establishment of the party as a whole.

In my experience of Liberal Democrat Conference, I have felt overwhelmingly welcomed by the Lib Dem community especially as a younger member. Often remarked is how nice it is to see lots of young people getting involved and this was evident in York. There was a considerable number of young brilliant speakers in all debates, including some very brave young women in the diversity motion. I am proud of all the ‘youth’ that spoke out as I am sure the majority of the party is as well. 

Moreover, the dichotomy of ‘young’ and ‘old’ is unnecessary, we all have different levels of experience in different areas and all our voices are valid and deserve to be heard. At conference and as a member of this party I feel like I belong and I am saddened that people my age feel discriminated against; this should never be the case. To be clear, I am not defending a party that is devoid of ageism but one that makes an effort to give us a voice, whether it be on Execs, boards or at conference. I am hopeful that we as the Liberal Democrat Party believe in our youth, our future leaders, and that we can ensure everyone knows they are valued regardless of age.

So if you’re called naïve because you’re young, convince them that your age is irrelevant and have conviction that you are right. We do have a voice in this party, use it to look to the future.

The party is listening to us, we need to give them reason to.

* Kimberley Stansfield is a Thornbury and Yate member and Campaigns Officer at University of Exeter Liberal Democrat Society.

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  • As a Young Liberal, I was similarly accused of being naive at the Scarborough Conference in 1975. The debate? Palestine. I was advocating the need for Israel to talk frankly and fairly with the representatives of the Palestinian people. Looking back I’m convinced that subsequent events have proved that it was not me that was being naive but the party leadership who were so virulent in their opposition to NLYL proposals.
    So wear the badge with pride! Being accused of being ‘naive’ should just be greeted with faint amusement and nothing else.
    Perhaps Liberal Youth should produce a badge for next conference: ‘I may be naive, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong’

  • Geoffrey Payne 18th Mar '16 - 1:18pm

    I thought the original article in Libertine was harsh. The women who spoke condescendingly towards young people in the fracking debate was clearly out of step with conference, and as recent events show sexual harassment is a problem for all age groups, and is being tackled by the party anyway. That is not to say that we should be complacent but if the charge is that the party is not doing enough I would like to know what specific policies should we be implementing that currently we are not.
    Virtually anyone can join a political party and it is to some extent the luck of the draw about the kinds of personalities of the leading activists in your local party.
    One would hope that LIb Dem members would be the kind of people who would naturally embrace diversity. Clearly a significant minority do not which is both fascinating and disturbing in equal measure.

  • I have been accused of being naive as well, and I am at the opposite end of the age spectrum!

    Some people, sadly, are offensive about people they disagree with within the party, both on the platform and on social media. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are being ageist, sexist, racist or homophobic, just that they are rude and unpleasant.

    Incidentally, that is why we have a ‘be polite’ rule on Lib Dem Voice. You would be amazed how some (a few) people just don’t seem to understand that what they write might cause offence.

  • Thomas Shakespeare 18th Mar '16 - 5:11pm

    Hi Kimberley,

    ‘if you’re called naïve because you’re young, convince them that your age is irrelevant’ – I think that misses the point. There should be no place for prejudice in this party. Members shouldn’t have to work harder to be respected based on when they happened to be born.

    While you or I (as a new-ish member) haven’t experienced ageism in the party, I understand that this is by no means the experience of everybody. We have heard many accounts from members of LY feeling belittled by ageism in the party. I don’t feel like making generalisations like ‘the party is/ is not listening to young people’ is helpful. Where it occurs, members need to be made aware of and challenge ageism, and indeed discrimination of any kind. Charlie was right to call out ageist behaviour at conference and more generally. Awareness is the first step.

  • Hi Kimberly,

    As a senior citizen and a regular attendee to conference I have not been aware of ageism. The woman calling a young man naïve was completely out of order and sad to say.
    For me it is always refreshing to see so many young people attending and making useful contributions to the conference long may it continue.

  • Gordon Lishman 22nd Mar '16 - 4:29pm

    From my own experience as an unruly Young Liberal, I think there is something to be said for a bit more repression! It helps young people to formulate their arguments under fire and fuels their anger. However, I would rather the attempted repression arose out of political disagreement than ageism. It is an important fact that appeals to ordinary members against repression actually helps get the point across. My advice to young people: find your issues, argue strongly and win some political debates.

  • You will be in the generation that has to pay off all this debt we are leaving you. So you need to weigh borrowing more to fund all these nice social commitments we all like to pledge versus paying back the debt sooner and giving ourselves a chance of real recovery. Or do you believe, like the current leadership, that the growth-bringing, green-economy fairies will just magically make it all better?

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