The party needs to live its values in the way it treats young members

Imagine being a member of a political party which prides itself on policy crafted by individuals which are valued in their own right, not for their morally arbitrary characteristics. It shouldn’t be too hard to imagine, because it is what our party sells itself as. Now imagine that upon joining that party you are told that actually what you are is just a good pair of legs to deliver leaflets, that you should instead accept that some people know better than you as a consequence of again arbitrary characteristics, and that regardless of your actual experiences that people are right to make assumptions about your knowledge, intelligence, and capacity for thinking into the future.

I would imagine that sounds fairly grim to you, and of course I would naturally agree. The sad thing is that this is a reality for young members of our party which they experience almost daily. It is no more obvious than at party conferences, where regardless of one’s education, training and vocation, that one is deemed “naïve” as a consequence of one’s youth.

I’d like to say I was heartened by the gasps and boos following one such example during the fracking debate, and I dare say the speaker responsible will have learnt her lesson. However, the problem persists within the party, and was evidenced the next day on the controversial debate concerning AWS and ADS. Young speakers from both sides of the debate recalled times where either themselves or their friends had experienced unwanted advances and sexual harassment, only to be told later either that they were plainly wrong, or that they knew nothing about true sexism.

I’ve never encountered anything more patronising, and it has to stop. Our party prides itself on valuing individuals for who they are, not what they are, and yet I’ve been made aware of serious problems on racism, sexism and ageism within the party that seemingly go unchallenged and attitudes unchanged. Regularly, I see older members in their wisdom inform young people of the correct way to do youth activism, and the correct issues they ought to campaign on, and we’ve had enough.

Andrew, Hilton, Lee (to name just a few), if you’re reading this, then you are shining examples for the rest of the party to follow. You make no assumptions about young people, and you actively seek out our help when it comes to helping young people in your area, or aiding in our aims. The Welsh Liberal Democrats too, which employs so many young people, frequently gives young people a platform at their own conference without a whisker of ageism or any inclination of thinking less of someone for their age. There I have experienced a genuine feeling of respect and value towards young people, and for that I’m genuinely grateful.

There, we are not used simply as ‘leaflet fodder’, or as a photo opportunity; we are asked to contribute towards the policy making process, often being consulted on HE and FE policy. It is a stark contrast to how the party operates federally, where often good policies (see Tim Farron’s work on violence and extenuating circumstances in Universities) miss out on becoming even better because they are announced without a single thought being given on how to improve the campaign, or how to successfully get the message across to Universities, where Liberal Youth has a great many links.

In short, there are a good number of people within the party who set an example of how best to treat young people. It’s an example I hope all of you strive to follow, because the young people of our party are not happy; they are the future and lifeblood of the Liberal Democrats which constitute 12% of its membership, and if they can’t find the representation they were promised here then I wouldn’t be surprised if they looked elsewhere for it instead.

* Charlie Kingsbury is co-chair of Liberal Youth

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49 Comments

  • Charlie, I am gobsmacked to be mentioned.
    I was shocked to read this morning how Matt D was treated by some in the party. It’s made me think all day and it’s made me ashamed. I treat every member of the party as an equal, regardless of their age, sex, sexuality, length of time in the party, or whether they are an AM, MP, councillor or local party Chair, etc.
    On Monday night, I gave Thomas H 2 spots to report on the agenda of Preseli Pembrokeshire Branch. To report on York Conference and his endeavours to set up Pembrokeshire Liberal Youth. His 2nd Exec meeting. This time, he gave 2 reports to us. Our ages range from 38 to 79.
    Last night, I attended Carms branch and was encouraging them to get Carms Liberal Youth going.
    I may be 56, but even I can learn from our Youth and I hope those who treat them as a lower class are exposed and cease. We are all equal in my Liberal Democrat family.

  • Tony Greaves 17th Mar '16 - 9:17pm

    This all seems rather odd to me. A long time ago when many of us who are now old were active Young Liberals, we didn’t go around complaining that we were dismissed or patronised or discriminated against, we organised and campaigned for what we believed and did what we thought was right, inside the party, outside the party, and for the party. If we had something to say we made sure we said it and we made sure it was heard. WE didn’t expect anything to be given to us on a plate just because we were young (any more than we expect it now because we are old). We were politicians and we are politicians and we got stuck in and (to the extent we still can) we get stuck in now.

    What I can’t find in this article is what Liberal Youth actually campaigns for…

  • Thank you for writing this, Charlie. It’s an issue which has come up in my experience: highly motivated, engaged and well-informed young activists with credible plans to fight elections being slapped down by older members because “that’s not how we do things here”, or “we’ve been doing this for X decades, so who are you to come along and tell us what to do?” or similar. The result is that those young activists cease to be highly motivated or engaged, and if they remain well-informed, cease to share it with their local party. Meanwhile other activists hang their heads in despair, and on the merry wagon goes with nary a backward glance…

  • Charlie Kingsbury 17th Mar '16 - 9:25pm

    Thank you for commenting, Lord Greaves. I’m sure if you took the time to get in touch with us we’d be more than happy to talk to you about what we campaign on, and the things we care about. You’ll notice a tremendous number of young people got up and spoke at conference despite the difficulties in the party, I’m sure, of which I’m tremendously proud of my members.

    But I’m slightly confused about why, on an article concerned with the behaviour of others, you want to talk about what our young members campaign on? I think much more refreshing would be your support in helping us get our voices heard within the party.

  • @Charlie Young people are the lifeblood of any party and any society. Go forth and shape the policies! We know you have so far been shortchanged in many ways (not being able to buy homes, facing an unrealistic pension age, etc.) But don’t just grudge, do things.

  • George Potter 17th Mar '16 - 9:57pm

    @Tony Greaves

    Quite right, I’m utterly ashamed of how young people like me bleat on about wage stagnation, the cost of living crisis, the lack of any prospect of home ownership and just generally demand to be given everything on a plate.

    Quite unlike noble lords like yourself who never complain and just soldier on with the trials and tribulations of being paid £300 a day just for turning up to parliament. Truly we could all learn from your noble example.

  • Stuart Wheatcroft 17th Mar '16 - 9:57pm

    Thank you Charlie for writing this. This hasn’t been talked about much until the last few days, but it’s a genuine problem.

    As you say, it’s not something that everyone in the party does. There are fantastic people at all levels of the party who make a genuine effort to engage young people and who do so without being patronising or, worse, contemptuous.

    I was saddened to read the comment by Lord Greaves. It does, of course, serve to illustrate the problem somewhat when a Lib Dem parliamentarian’s immediate reaction on reading a complaint about the poor treatment of young people is to tell a young member to shut up and go and campaign on something. (I don’t think I paraphrase too wildly.)

    Ironically, this article is itself part of a campaign of sorts, and one on which I hope Lord Greaves will reflect further.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 17th Mar '16 - 9:59pm

    While I know people will feel, quite justifiably, annoyed by Tony’s comments, let’s keep responses civil, please.

  • George Potter 17th Mar '16 - 9:59pm

    Though incidentally, I’m not sure what you could call writing an article on a prominent party affiliated platform about an issue you care about anything other than “organis[ing] and campaign[ing] for what we believe […] inside the party”.

  • George Potter 17th Mar '16 - 10:02pm

    Personally I do campaign on issues I care about – as do most people in Liberal Youth. But it would certainly be a lot easier if, instead of placing obstacles in our way and doing their best to obstruct innovation, some people in this party actually stopped making things harder even if expecting them to ever join in with anything useful might be a little too much to ask.

  • There is not a hint of a grudge in my work with Liberal Youth.

    I’m going to admit something I’ve not told anyone, but I think the time is right here. I’ve had some comments from a few people, which I’ve already dealt with, who made both implicit and explicit suggestions that I support Liberal Youth for some unseemly cause.

    As if the fact that a nearly 40 year-old helping young people develop their skills, policy and campaigning should be frowned upon as some sort of Saville-esque task to be thwarted.

    Well, the Liberal Youth I know actually helps ME keep campaigning and fighting for what I believe in, which is the same thing LY fights for – social justice through education, health and protection of civil liberties.

    I nearly quit the party last year, and it was (amongst other individual members) Norman Lamb and Liberal Youth who made me feel I had a place here.

    So yes, Tony, young people should go out and campaign for what they believe in, and I can assure you Liberal Youth do just that.

    But please, don’t come on here and claim that people want something handed to them on a plate because they’re calling out poor treatment by some in the party.

    And it would perhaps be wise to consider that being dismissive, patronising and discriminatory may CAUSE people to feel just that.

    #Simmering

  • Hilton.Marlton 17th Mar '16 - 10:11pm

    As a relatively new member I’m always inspired by the talent, wisdom and positive energy of many of the younger members in this party. The friendship, advice and support offered by a number of them to us here in Carmarthenshire, in our quest to set up a new branch, has been a lifeline. To say that young members are the future is obvious and I support the underlying analysis that their voice is not being fully heard. This is also true of the astounding pool of new talent offered by the new members. These huge, largely untapped resources are a major gift to a party with its back to the wall. Its a waste of talent to sideline them. We need to harness the raw energy in the room at the Newbies Lib Dem Pint in York. It was truly electrifying.

  • Michael Chappell 17th Mar '16 - 10:14pm

    @Tony Greaves

    One of the main things that Liberal Youth campaigns for is that young people aren’t ignored and marginalised by older people in this country. We start that by fixing the way that the party treats us.

  • George Potter 17th Mar '16 - 10:18pm

    As a more general point if, when the topic of ageism (or sexism, or harassment, or racism, or ableism) is brought up, your instant reaction is to think either that you’re so great at not being like that that you should pat yourself on the back or that this is something you never do then the odds are that you’re part of the problem.

    The worst prejudice comes from those who are so confident in their own lack of prejudice, or who have a complete lack of introspection as to whether they’re prejudiced. The people who are least likely to be part of the problem are those who are constantly questioning their own behaviour.

  • An excellent piece Charlie – sure makes me proud to have been the one, I believe, that answered the request from your good self to get involved with the party in the first place all those years ago in Aberysywyth. I created a monster!

    Seriously, it saddens me greatly to hear of what went on at York conference. I can’t get my head round it. I’m now 33 but was once a keen and bushy-tailed student, finding my way in a party I wanted to call my home. I was given the encouragement from more senior members of the Welsh party at the time to do so and get involved however best I felt my energies could serve our party.

    I am immensely proud now to be the Honorary President of IR Cymru and have been bowled over by the contributions from new young Welsh Liberals at our recent Welsh conferences. Not just getting involved socially, but really getting involved with formulating policy for our devolved party.

    Hell, it was IR CYMRU that proposed a policy for a discount travel card for young people in Wales which has now become WELSH GOVERNMENT POLICY thanks to our budgetary negotiations with the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay.

    You read that right folks, WELSH LIB DEM LIBERAL YOUTH MEMBERS HAVE CREATED WELSH GOVERNMENT POLICY!

    So you’re right Charlie to mention how at a Welsh party level, we positively embrace and encourage our IR Cymru members to immerse themselves in our party – in their party.

    So to read Lord Greaves’ response in this thread is thoroughly depressing. With that attitude and that of others sadly mentioned in York, I probably wouldn’t have bothered getting active in the party. Would not have become Mark Williams’ constituency organiser in 2004 to help him win Ceredigion in 2005. Would not have become an elected Councillor in 2004 aged 21 and went on to become Mayor of Cardigan aged 26 and Chair of Ceredigion County Council aged 29 and would not have now felt it only right that
    I put back to the party for thanks for what it has given to me, by encouraging with every ounce of my being, the new youthful talent that is coming through in our party. I could’ve done something much more productive with my time I’m sure.

    Liberal Youth and IR Cymru here in Wales are the lifeblood of our party. I’m proud to serve, I hope, as a mentor for new members in our Welsh party and will continue to do so. If I didn’t, after all that support that was once given to me, I’d call myself a disgrace to the liberal cause.

  • Well said Mark Cole.
    Glad we are having this discussion.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Mar '16 - 11:09pm

    Charlie
    This is a very powerful article from which I learnt a lot .I do not agree with George above on one thing , if we , any of us that bit older than Liberal Youth members , and I am a member in my later forties , are not directly aware of these problems , it can be because like Andrew above , and unlike Lord Greaves , we are never patronising to anyone because they are younger , older or any age !

    I must say , as someone who works in the arts and creative industries mainly , age , gender , race , these have , for me , literally never even entered the frame as reasons not to have both excellent working relationships , and good friendships .I have had friends in their late sixties , and early twenties , and colleagues too.I have worked with and do , younger people straight out of university who do not give a thought to age with me , nor me with them , because we just get on .It is how things should be , but actually are for many people .I know people much older than me who are similarly ageless, and relate to any age .Admitedly , though, that is not always so , though I have never witnessed what Charlie has , people who are know alls are everywhere in politics !Not an area known for humility !

    Charlie and a;ll your colleagues , keep with it and at it !

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 17th Mar '16 - 11:10pm

    As Tony Greaves said, this all seems rather odd to me. That may be as much as the two of us agree on in this instance. A political party should theoretically have a past, a present and a future. That means preparing the next generations so that they can continue the struggle for established and emerging liberal values. Thus, you need to enable young members to express themselves so that they can become the leadership when people like me are gone, and preferably before.

    It also shouldn’t be beyond the wit of liberals and liberal democrats to mutually respect each other’s right to an opinion, regardless of age and experience, and I do find myself wondering if, in the quest for influence, we have forgotten that to some extent.

    Each of us brings useful knowledge and experience to the Party, and whilst some of that may not come from blankety-blank number of years of service, it has just as much potential value if given a fair hearing.

  • Because I haven’t been to a conference for years and am not really active in the party at the moment I don’t have a view on the substance of this article, but coming from the same generation of activists as Tony Greaves I would like to make the point that the Young Liberals/Union of Liberal Students were an insurgent force in the Liberal Party, but one with a well-debated and coherently considered liberal ideology and strategy for its implementation. The conflicts of that time were never just between young and old because there were plenty of older members who welcomed the dynamism that our ideas was bringing into the party, but there were constant battles with the party establishment. I would love to see the party revitalised today by its younger members developing new ideas and strategies. I worry that “forty years of Focus” may just mean that we are now the establishment.

  • By George I agree with you.
    In the Red Guard days it was easy to get a job or a grant if one wanted to go to university. Rents were controlled.
    Mind you I had to go abroad to find a worthwhile job but they say the world is your oyster.

  • David Evans 18th Mar '16 - 9:12am

    What a sad example of someone not taking his own advice from George Potter. His comment “The people who are least likely to be part of the problem are those who are constantly questioning their own behaviour,” does not compare well with his casual one line dismissal of work in the House of Lords “Quite unlike noble lords like yourself who never complain and just soldier on with the trials and tribulations of being paid £300 a day just for turning up to parliament. Truly we could all learn from your noble example.”

    I would strongly suggest that George asks one of our Lords to give him a good idea of all the things they do as part of their work in the HoL, whether they ever claim £300 for just turning up, and whether they get £300 a day for everything they do.

  • Charlie, great article. Shame about some of the comments.

  • David Garlick 18th Mar '16 - 10:04am

    Good and obviously stimulating post. No one young, old or in between should be seen as a good pair of legs for delivery only. As an ageing Liberal I can remember being a good pair of legs (just) and it felt good to be able to do that for the Party. However I was always encouraged to, join in the running of the party, any social or fundraising activities any discussions on Policy and local issues, campaign plans etc. etc. Anything less than full engagement irrespective of age on the members own terms is not acceptable.

  • Great article. Even at the grand age of 32 where I am now far too old for Liberal Youth’s standard age criteria, I have experienced ageism since the day I joined the party in late 2011 and still encounter it now. I’ve been told I ‘haven’t been in the Party long enough’, or ‘I’m too young to understand about campaigning’. You’d think people would be biting the arm off fresh new ideas full of energy 🙂

  • In my youth I believed in disarmament. All that money spent on weapons could easily be used to eliminate world poverty. Some of the olders Liberals said no, we have lived through a world war and know what having a lack of defence can lead to. The views of older people do have value.

  • suzanne fletcher 18th Mar '16 - 11:11am

    smiling that the advert at the top of the article is for a new pair of knees 🙂
    my sense of humour ((i’m an oldie for those that don’t know) id like some advice on how to engage and value our young people ?
    we have had a number join in the last year here, and have never, ever thought of them as a pair of legs not needing new knees. however difficult to engage with. I am membership officer and make contact as soon as a new membership pops up, just to say welcome. it can take weeks, and sometimes never, as I get no response to first of all an e-mail, then I phone and leave a message, then I text (am very slow at texting). response if any is usually that they are very busy or away from home. we have had drop ins at a local bar, social events, offers of lifts to leadership hustings, member meetings on policies, open meetings about EU. our chair is young (just a bit older than LY membership) even though most of us are more my age.
    newsletters go to all members. we did a survey. there have been some general appeals for help with leafletting and campaigning (with food before, after, during on offer)
    So how do we engage ? genuine question.
    Also before the general elections of 2010 and 2015 I’ve been and chatted at the YL stalls at conference, and asked if they would like to be a parly candidate for us. offered accomodation, support, made clear they do not need to financially contribute, and not even mentioned leaflet delivery.
    so what are we doing wrong ?

  • Charlie Kingsbury 18th Mar '16 - 12:15pm

    @Manfarang, nobody suggested that the views of older people don’t matter, the problem is that many older people see their views as superior, or make assumptions about the experiences and capabilities of young people.

    @Suzanne, thank you for your comment. The first step is to challenge people when the first thing they do is deny that there’s a problem. The approach many have is to reject the notion that there is even a whiff of a problem because their own experience says otherwise. What I’m asking for is for us as a party to treat members as members, not as fodder, not as naive ground troops who must not question the orders of their aged commanders. So you can help by joining us in challenging instances where things are less than ideal for young members, whether online, at conferences, or in your local area. Over the next few months I hope to work with others to present a report to the party on what it can be doing better, I would suggest that training for various levels of the party, reserved spaces for young people on SAOs’ executives, youth spaces on federal committees, and better consultation and engagement with LY from the party itself when it publishes positions on policy that impact young people.

  • George Potter 18th Mar '16 - 12:29pm

    @David Evans

    I’m sure our unelected legislators, appointed by patronage, do work hard for their tax free £300 a day.

    However, the point I was making, which you missed, is that it’s a bit rich for someone who’s been gifted a well paid job for life to criticise others for “wanting things given to them on a plate”.

    It’s especially rich when all we’re actually asking for is to a) be treated as equals with the same potential to contribute as anyone else and b) for the party to maybe, possibly consider giving a damn about the rife intergenerational inequality and unfairness in this country.

    I would write more of a reply but sadly I must get back to work earning £16.5k a year after tax in my graduate job of which 40% goes on paying for my room in a shared house and another 15% goes on the costs of getting to work – and in the future I can look forward to such fruits of my labour as being unable to afford a mortgage and working until I’m 75 in order to pay for the pension liabilities and debt run up by older generations.

    I suppose I really should just shut up and learn to know my place when it comes to my elders (and self-appointed betters).

  • I am desperate to find new members especially those younger (and I mean 45 or 50 years younger) than me. But we are nowhere near a university and they appear to be the well-spring for young members. So how do I ‘sell’ us to young people who are not in higher education? How do I even find them to start with?
    Re the ‘just a pair of legs’ thing though: research has shown that “putting it on a piece of paper and pushing it through a letterbox” is still the most effective way of getting our message across. We all therefore need to accept that the party wants all our talents, ideas and experiences but that those who can will also be asked to deliver leaflets. But it’s important that we oldies don’t think that’s all we should expect from those younger in years or younger in party membership.

  • Charlie
    My experience of the Liberal Party was it tended to attract younger people to its ranks.

  • I wonder whether we really need ‘young’ liberals, I recall not joining that part of the party when I was eligible (many years ago), although more recently in my current campus LP it seemed to be the YLs that knew one another, and how things were done. I think my point is that it’s good that there are interest (identity?) groups but we should all avoid bunkers and silos, there just aren’t enough of us for that, and never really were.
    We should also avoid the danger of turning any new enthusiasm into Focus fodder!

  • suzanne fletcher 18th Mar '16 - 1:48pm

    @charles Kingsbury – yes i would challenge if I saw any form of discrimination – but I don’t either in my local party or NE region. In fact the region has been great in doing a lot to encourage young people.
    there is space on our local exec, my AO …….

  • Charlie Kingsbury 18th Mar '16 - 2:24pm

    @Suzanne – it’s entirely possible that your region behaves admirably towards young people, or as is unfortunately more likely, ageist behaviour goes unnoticed or is done unconsciously. But whether it is done intentionally or not, actively or not, or maliciously or not, it grinds people down over time, and that’s the problem.

  • Thomas Shakespeare 18th Mar '16 - 7:01pm

    Hi Suzanne,

    I’m a LY member who joined just before the GE. First of all I think you’re absolutely doing the right thing by communicating so well with members and telling them how they can help. Something I think many local parties need to improve on.

    From my own local party I understand that there are members who just want to pay their membership fee and wear the badge. I’d love them to join campaigns but if they’re not interested, that’s fine by me. Speaking personally, I think a lot of young people also lack the confidence to get involved in campaigns, especially canvassing. I think holding as many training events for newbies as demand allows is great. Also working as closely as possible with local/nearby liberal youth branches to organise socials as a first step into the LD community. If your party uses Connect phone canvassing, I think extensive training in that is a great first step which can be built on.

    I think working closely with any nearby LY branches and organising socials and training (emphasising that new members are welcome) is all you can do really. Of course Charlie’s the expert on this though. If people don’t want to get involved that closely, so be it. As far as I can tell you’re doing everything right and local young people are really lucky to have you as there membership coordinator.

  • Thomas Shakespeare 18th Mar '16 - 7:09pm

    Charlie,

    I think tarring all local parties with the same brush is unhelpful. Perhaps there are people who are ageist who are involved in running Suzanne’s local party. Perhaps there aren’t. Eliminating discrimination (including ageism) is about leadership and challenging bias. As far as I can tell Suzanne is leading in this way by engaging with all members, young and old. Perhaps training can give members the tools to recognise such bias more effectively though.

  • suzanne fletcher 18th Mar '16 - 10:59pm

    thanks thomas, but i can assure you we don’t have any ageist members that are involved in anything, anyway. we are all wanting to be genuinely welcome.
    we made it clear in communications about helping that if phoning there would be guidance in getting going (and cake!). same with canvassing in a recent by election – said someone would be with them (that goes for all ages) – and lunch afterwards.
    a regional branch is just setting up and so I am hoping they can do more than we can. the NE is a genuinely young people friendlyll place !

  • George, your comment directed to Tony Greaves was quite clear “Quite unlike noble lords like yourself who never complain and just soldier on with the trials and tribulations of being paid £300 a day just for turning up to parliament.” It does not reconcile in any way with your subsequent “I’m sure our unelected legislators, appointed by patronage, do work hard for their tax free £300 a day.” Nor does it reconcile with the facts as Tony was one of the (admittedly few) Lords appointed from the party list that was voted on by the party, not just chosen by the leader.

    There is enough truth behind your anger at the intergenerational injustice of the current situation to keep you fired up fighting for Liberal Democracy, but don’t turn your fire on those on your side, just because they do the same job as others far less worthy. If you believe you have to first win the fight with your own side, you will find it is so weakened your enemies then make mincemeat of what is left. Nick found that out, but sadly much too late to stop the Conservatives nearly destroying us.

  • I’m sure this is a problem in some places, but in our local party we’ve done a lot to encourage new young members into powerful roles. We have three on our Exec: one is our Secretary and another our Campaigns Officer. The Campaigns Officer is standing in a county council by-election. Five other new young members are standing in normal local elections, one in a winnable seat alongside a young but not new member who’s already a councillor.

    I don’t regard Tony’s comments as patronising, but many things have changed and to rebuild something like NLYL is a big ask. Young members who want to get involved in their local parties should be welcomed.

    One thing does need to be understood, though. Occasionally new members, young or old, expect to reach positions of power without a baptism of sweat delivering leaflets and the like. Except in a few cases, this is unlikely to be welcomed by existing activists who do the hard slog as well as the intellectual stuff. The key issue, as with any volunteers in any organisation, is to make sure people don’t get stuck at the basic levels when they want to try something involving more initiative and potential to get things wrong.

    What I do think needs

  • Charlie Kingsbury 19th Mar '16 - 12:59pm

    @Thomas, I didn’t say all local parties. I have consistently throughout the article and time and time again throughout my replies to comments explained that it doesn’t apply to all local parties. But that’s irrelevant, the problem is widespread enough for it to be a legitimate concern; it doesn’t matter how frequently people pop up and say “not all local parties”, it’s still something we should tackle.

  • Charlie Kingsbury 19th Mar '16 - 1:09pm

    @Suzanne, not everyone is ageist maliciously. Some might genuinely be trying to make people feel welcome, or are trying to be helpful but still fall afoul of some of these problems. I dare say 99% of party members who are ageist (I’m not saying 99% of the party is ageist, for clarity) don’t realise they’re doing so. That’s why I think the party could benefit from more training delivered by LY at conferences, for staff members, for regional executives etc.

    That said, Suzanne, it is very probable that your local party is perfect. Many of them are completely without their problems and for that I’m incredibly glad, but that has little to do with the fact that there is a problem in this party. It would be better for us to be talking about what we can do to improve the situation than repeatedly clarifying that some local parties are not ageist.

  • Tony Greaves 20th Mar '16 - 1:58pm

    Well I stirred something up which is always a good thing. But I still do not understand what Charlie Kingsbury and some of his supporters are saying. Far from me being patronising, it seems to me that some of these people want to be patronised. What I wrote was that they should organise and campaign and fight for what they want. Having read this thread in total I am still far from clear what that is (other than to be made welcome and given positions in the party).

    When I started campaigning here in Colne some people told me I was too young. I ignored them and got on with it. Now some people tell me I’m too old. I ignore them and get on with it.

    No, I do not patronise people (though I admit I sometimes say things that are perceived to be insulting) nor were my comments remotely condescending though they were certainly critical. As for attacking me because I work for the party in the Lords, I can just dismiss that as silly nonsense!

    So I ask again – what is it that the Liberal youth movement stands for now?

    Tony Greaves

    By the way, doesn’t it sum things up that they complain that I have not contacted them?

  • Well, as someone who’s known Tony on and off for well over fifty years (when I was Vice Chair of the National League of Young Liberals and he was running ULS) – let me tell those younger than our venerable selves that Tony is no different now to what he was then – (maybe a bit less hair on top and a bit more on the chin).

    As a Bradford/Wakefield Lad he said what he thought then and he says what he thinks now – and if some people are too precious to take it then tough luck. Politics is a rough old trade and if people want to be in it they’ve got to take it as well as give it.

    Tony has always done plenty of fighting and organising on the radical side of the party – The whole community politics strand of thought and action in the party came from Tony and the Young Liberal Red Guard in the sixties. I’m sure young Charlie could benefit by tapping into all that experience if he made the effort of getting to know and having a chat with said Lordship.

  • What a sorry state this party is in when there is so much work to be done and instead of getting on with it we are engaged in protracted and immoderate disputes like this.

    We have a new Leader who has the potential to become a great Leader. Liberal brains young and old should be engaged on how the whole party can advance alongside him. Delivering leaflets is a good thing to do while thinking.

    After 48 years I have retired from delivering on grounds of age and decrepitude and I have to face up to telephone campaigning, which I hate. The torch must be passed to a new generation. Ask not what your party can do for you, ask what you can deliver for your party.

  • Helen Tedcastle 20th Mar '16 - 4:44pm

    @David Evans
    ‘ If you believe you have to first win the fight with your own side, you will find it is so weakened your enemies then make mincemeat of what is left. Nick found that out, but sadly much too late to stop the Conservatives nearly destroying us.’

    Wise advice indeed.

    I too remember the days when young Liberals and the ULS fought campaigns and were radical. I don’t recall any intra- party debate where young people complained about being patronised or belittled.

    They were too busy fighting the Tories and the sub-Blairite NOLs centrists who ran the NUS.

  • Paul Holmes 20th Mar '16 - 6:45pm

    I read on a blog prior to yesterdays English Party Executive meeting that there has been an unusual increase in the ratio of longer standing members not renewing their membership in the first quarter of 2016. I wonder if they are being sampled in the style of job exit interviews to ask why?

  • What if young members *are* being naive? Doesn’t experience also convey knowledge?

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