The Young Liberals need to take themselves more seriously… and the party does too

When I joined the party eight years ago I was surprised at the disdain some held for the Young Liberals (formerly Liberal Youth). Infighting, popularity contests and a distinct lack of coherent long-term objectives are all things which have came to epitomise the Young Liberals, and sadly much of that is true.

Our party can be daunting for young members so when I joined the party back in 2010 the thing which kept me involved was the youth wing. The knowledge that, somewhere within the party, there was a person not too dissimilar from me who was able to speak out and enact change and this was incredibly comforting. This is what the Young Liberals should be, a bridgehead against all of that and acting as a welcoming environment in which young people can grow and get involved.

As someone who has been involved in the Young Liberals for a long time now, I can tell you that sadly this is not the role it plays. The elected members of the organisation are often more obsessed with patting their own backs and individuals blatantly self-promoting. Every executive is different but it is very hard to pin down exactly what each executive plans to do, in part due to the culture of the organisation, which often boils down to “it’s not my portfolio/responsibility”. This creates a very disjointed approach and hinders it acting as a united body representing young people.

The Young Liberals is in dire need of a culture change and needs to understand the importance of the role it plays. The first step is undertaking a big shift in the attitudes around its dealings with the Party. We need to move away from the attitude that the Party, and Federal HQ, are people we begrudgingly have to work with rather than the friends and allies that they really are. We need to be working together and pooling our resources to produce the best results we can for the party.

But the party also needs to better engage with the Young Liberals. They need to communicate with us more about youth issues and ensure that young voices are always represented discussions. I am not saying the party needs to get everything signed off by the Young Liberals, but even just some dialogue about upcoming statements and ideas will help soothe tensions and combat the idea that young people don’t get a fair hearing in this party.

The Young Liberals have a great deal of passion, energy and willingness to get out there on doorsteps across the country on behalf of the party; fighting Brexit and bolstering the party’s efforts to rebuild, however this requires a much higher level of cooperation and working in tandem with the Party than currently exists. It is time for us to embrace this and empower young people in the party. In the current political climate, we must focus on engaging with the next generation of voters and activists now more than ever. The Young Liberals certainly need to act more professionally and make stronger efforts to work with the party and, in turn, the Party needs to be more receptive to these efforts and help foster a new cooperative relationship.

* Callum is a Welsh Liberal Democrat member and current Chair of the Welsh Young Liberals.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters.
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9 Comments

  • James Baillie 16th Jul '18 - 12:02pm

    I am still, I think, eligible to be involved in YL, but I don’t tend to go near it with a bargepole. Indeed when I first joined the party in 2015, the first things I found were the YL online forums of various sorts – I very nearly left again pretty rapidly after that. I’ve never managed to find myself much reason to start paying attention again: YL has many lovely people in it, and it does currently manage to fulfil some organisational functions for activism for younger members, but I’ve rarely if ever been able to see what I’d be useful for to YL or what YL would be likely to be useful for regarding the things I want to happen in the party.

  • Thankfully the future of the party seems to consist overwhelmingly of Economic Liberals.

  • John Marriott 16th Jul '18 - 3:16pm

    “Gaudeamus igitur, Iuvenes dum sumus”. It’s great to be young – I was once. Just don’t assume that you are the first person to invent the wheel.

  • Helen Dudden 17th Jul '18 - 5:44pm

    As young people, perhaps you can answer what is causing so many young people mental health issue’s? It’s written your feeling let down, but why are feeling let down? Do you feel there is too much pressure on you?
    I’ve come through a less stressful time in many ways, childhood and teenage years, motherhood was planned for us, we would leave work to have children. I loved cooking, and we even had a small holding, attached to our farmhouse we were renovating. My children enjoyed the simple things in life.
    You are the next generation, how do you view it, and do you feel perhaps some of these values were not that bad?
    I personally, as a mother, grandmother and great grandmother, feel very concerned that some young people are very unhappy hiding the fact they have a health issue, mental health is a health issue. As a grandmother, I’m someone my grandchildren except, I will listen, and not judge.

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