Caroline Flint

Caroline's answers to your questions

1.  How do you plan to get young members more involved in the Labour Party?

I joined the Labour Party at 17 at my local FE college. By the time I was 20 I was running my university Labour Club. I was Labour’s student national women’s officer at 21 and ran the young  Labour branch in Finchley at 23. First, don’t patronise young people. In my party one of our best canvassers, Dan, is 16, our youngest-ever councillor Rachel was elected at 22, and one of our volunteers, Prosper, is in the youth wing of the Zimbabwe MDC. Best not to try talking down to any of them. Second, don’t just talk about campaigning. Do it. For every meeting there should be a campaigning activity. Third, don’t treat all young people the same. Involving apprentices, young mums at a Sure Start, sixth form climate campaigners, or young entrepreneurs setting up their own businesses may need really different approaches. Fourth, meetings can be deadly. At my first Labour party meeting, the discussion was on ‘How to deselect your Labour MP’, in a constituency that had never had a Labour MP. I wanted a voice not irrelevant rubbish. Fifth, put the social into socialism. It’s no accident that the best night of Labour’s Annual Conference is the Labour Students’ disco. Making politics fun never harmed a campaign. If I’m Deputy Leader, I’ll ensure our best young campaigners get the support they need to take our message across the country and harness their savvy when it comes to social media. I want young people campaigning, building a grassroots movement, not a Westminster elite.  

2. What is your strategy to press the Government to allow 16 and 17- year-olds to vote in the European Referendum?

The best strategy for giving 16 and 17 years olds the vote, of course, would have been to have got a Labour Government elected in May! That said, that's no reason to let up the pressure on this Government now. I think the case for giving 16 and 17 year olds a say in the referendum is a really strong one. Extending the franchise for 16 year olds is a good thing because it encourages democratic participation from an early age. As Don Valley CLP often says, vote early and vote often. I think the best way of making the argument is to get young people – from both sides of the referendum debate – to argue the case directly. Young people are their own best advocates and they can make the argument better than anyone else can. That would mean a big role for Young Labour in galvanising its members and organising a big national campaign. But I think it would be our most powerful way of pressing the Government. After all, at a time when politicians all too often wring their hands about young people being disengaged from politics and low turnout at elections what better antidote could there be than young people passionately arguing for their right to vote?

3. How can Labour get more women and young people, as well as BAME, disabled and LGBT members to stand for selection as candidates?

As someone who doesn't come from what most people would think of as a traditional background for politicians, I know how important it is that the Labour Party looks and sounds like the country we aspire to govern. Despite real progress, especially in the last twenty years, there are still too few women, too few BAME, too few disabled, too few LGBT and too few working class members standing for selection, and being elected at all levels of the Labour Party. As Deputy Leader, I'll level the playing field for candidates so that money and connections are no advantage to selections. Crucially, I'd like to see more support given to candidates during the selection process and once they've been selected. Over the last five years I've visited literally hundreds of constituencies around the country and I saw not just how hard our candidates were working, but also what a high cost it came at for them personally. Plus we need our members and supporters for so much more than their subs or to deliver leaflets. As Deputy Leader, I'll create Labour's Got Talent - to draw on the talents, skills and contacts they can share. 

4. Do you support an equal minimum wage for young people?

From the age of 13 I had a variety of Saturday jobs. I worked during my school, college and university holidays – most glamorously of all in a baked bean factory. I know how frustrating it is to work side by side with someone a bit older than you and get paid less than them. But I also wouldn't want to do anything that unintentionally hurt young people in the labour market. I remember how much I learnt from my first few jobs about the world of work and it's really important that young people are given a chance at a first job. The consistent advice from the Low Pay Commission – the independent body set up by the last Labour Government to advise on the minimum wage – has been that because young people are more vulnerable to unemployment, the minimum wage should be lower for them. New Zealand has closed the gap between the minimum wage it pays young people, compared to the rest of the population and the results there have been pretty mixed, so I would always want to be led by the evidence and act in the best interests of young people. We shouldn't overlook the other problems in the labour market for young people either: poor health and safety training, the prevalence of zero hours contracts and shifts timed in a such a way as to avoid having to give paid breaks.  

5. How can Labour get more young people involved in politics and increase electoral turnout amongst young people?

For all everyone says about young people being disengaged from politics – at best calling them apathetic and at worst just not bothered - the young people I meet in my constituency and around the country are full of creativity and passion, bringing with them a great understanding of the ideals they think our country should be run by and, yes, a faith in the future. But despite all of that, they just don't see political parties as a vehicle for making the change they want in the world. More worryingly, at the last election they just didn’t see our party as the party that stands up for the things they believe in. It's very easy to come up with issues that we think will appeal to young people, or new ways of communicating with them – and of course, we've always got to be innovative in the way we campaign. But when it comes down to it, I think young people want the same thing as everyone else – an economy that creates good, well-paid jobs, public services there when they need them, a place to call home at a price they can afford, and the hope that they can enjoy a better future, with more opportunities, than their parents or grandparents did. Convincing young people to engage in politics, and to entrust Labour with their vote, isn't all that different from what we need to do for the whole country. If we understand that, we can win in 2020. 

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