Ben's answers to your questions
1. How do you plan to get young members more involved in the Labour Party?
Labour doesn't win elections without its young members. Throughout our recent history, it’s been Young Labour and Labour Students that have been our powerhouse campaign team in every by-election and General Election Campaign. That was no different in May’s General Election. The youth movement led the way in campaigning and organising in key seats, and beyond. Young members are the forefront of campaigning, and I will ensure they are the forefront of our rebuild. I want to work with young members across the country to build up your local groups, and support the NEC Youth Rep and Chairs of YL and Labour Students in empowering members to not just knock on doors at election time, but to run your own campaigns on issues that matter to you. By putting young members at the centre of our policy making process, we can future-proof our own policy-making. As Deputy Leader I will support your NPF reps in building the party infrastructure to offer an inclusive and broad politics where new members, young trade union members and non-members can be as much part of the debate in our movement as long time active members. As your Deputy Leader, my door won’t just be open to young members – we’ll be working in partnership to ensure you all have a real stake in the Party’s present, and its future.
2. What is your strategy to press the Government to allow 16 and 17- year-olds to vote in the European Referendum?
Too many politicians make glib remarks about “young people” and their supposed lack of engagement in politics. I don’t think this could be any further from the truth. Young people are already integral to our own party, with members as young as 14 getting involved all over the country. In my own campaigns in Exeter, some of my hardest working volunteers are from the local schools, colleges and the University. I simply wouldn’t be an MP today without the passionate involvement of these dedicated people. I've been a long term supporter of votes at 16 and I believe we must keep up the fight to make sure 16 and 17 year olds have a vote in the EU referendum. We’ve already seen how 16 and 17 year olds were motivated to vote in the Scottish Referendum, and I believe that the same level of inclusion is important for this incredibly important decision about our future in Europe. It was blocked in the Commons, but as it continues to bounce between the several stages of Parliament, we must keep up the pressure. As Deputy Leader, I will work with independent organisations, the Labour Youth Movement and others to ensure we make a public and powerful case for the involvement of young members.
3. How can Labour get more women and young people, as well as BAME, disabled and LGBT members to stand for selection as candidates?
I am proud of how central liberation is to the work of Young Labour and Labour Students - they are at the heart of campaigns both within our party and more widely. The Party can learn a lot from the work you do. Our young councillors are leading the way in many of our local authorities. The Party should use all this to inspire and help empower other young members. But we all know that there is plenty still to do, across the liberation movements. Society’s attitudes to trans* people are changing fast, led by some fantastic advocates; those with disabilities are still held back by society, and we’re finally starting to address the scourge of stigma towards mental health issues. BAME members of society still face discrimination on a daily basis. Women still earn less than men, and are being hit hardest by cuts to Government spending. The Labour Party must always be a place that is open and welcoming to all. All-women shortlists broke the stranglehold of men on Parliament, and I’m proud to have always supported this stance by our Party. There is fantastic work being carried out across our movement, but often not by the Party – the Fabian and Labour Women’s Networks are great examples of this. We need to replicate these programmes with other liberation campaigns, to make sure our elected officials – from branch secretary to MP – reflect the make-up of our Party and the Country we seek to represent.
4. Do you support an equal minimum wage for young people?
Yes. It’s as simple as this – I believe in the concept of the same pay for the same work, and that goes for women and for young people. Young Labour voted to support this motion at their last conference and the fact they are leading the debate on this issue is a credit to them. The Labour Party as a whole needs to pick this issue up and champion it alongside you.
5. How can Labour get more young people involved in politics and increase electoral turnout amongst young people?
People vote when they feel passionately that their action of putting a cross in a box will have a profound impact on their lives. But that goes both ways – lots of people in this election wanted to vote Labour, but felt they couldn’t, and so they voted Conservative, or Green, or UKIP. I am standing for Deputy Leader because never again do I want our activists to slog their guts out on the doorstep, selling a message that wasn’t wanted by people. Never again do I want the shock of that 10pm opinion poll. We must reach out beyond the ground on which we feel safest. We were right to campaign on people who live in poverty; but we won’t win if we do it to the exclusion of campaigning to make the lives of the majority better too. We must be the party that stands up for the income tax payer as well as the bedroom tax-payer. We need a style of politics that is broad and inclusive. Our party nationally and locally needs to be welcoming and inclusive. And we need to campaign on the ground talking to voters and listening to their concerns. But most of all we must win back the trust of the majority of people in our country, giving them hope that a Labour Government will be a good thing for them.