Stella's answers to your questions
1. How do you plan to get young members more involved in the Labour Party?
Young people have been the backbone of our campaigning – giving huge amounts of time, effort and energy to knocking on doors and fighting across the country to get rid of the Coalition Government. It is important we don’t lose their energy and interest but instead support them to channel this into transforming our communities from the ground up and showing how Labour in power makes a difference. We don’t have to wait five years to be powerful even if we are in opposition. Our young members and supporters are a key part of this process- we have to develop their ability not only to campaign but also lead for Labour. As a former youth worker I know we have to give responsibility to get responsibility – that’s why I want us to have a development officer as well as campaigns team working with young people to help their skills so that they can run campaigns and actions at all levels of Labour. Working with young people to run conferences and events, this role would be to support their ability to not only represent Labour – whether within the youth movement or within the wider party and in elected positions- but also engage their peers in our movement too.
2. What is your strategy to press the Government to allow 16 and 17- year-olds to vote in the European Referendum?
With so much at stake given the nature of our economic and social ties with Europe, the decision as to whether we continue to take part in the EU or exit will define the opportunities and risks of generations to come. It is right that young people whose right to free movement around Europe for work could be affected are given the same right to vote as those over 18. This is a once in a lifetime choice and it is wrong of David Cameron to use low turnout amongst older generations as a reason to deny 16 and 17 year olds the chance to have their say. That is why I have already challenged the Government about its decision to deny 16 and 17 year olds the right to participate in the recent debate and will continue to do so. To make this case for their rights we must be willing to cooperate with those youth led groups who share our concern for this issue if not our movement. This includes partners such as the Votes at 16 campaign and the British Youth Council. I also want to put Young Labour and Labour Students at the heart of our leadership of this work as they can help encourage their peers to participate as well as lead by example for the importance of this issue to their lives. We should be clear that our role is to give them a platform and the right support to have their voices heard in this way.
3. How can Labour get more women and young people, as well as BAME, disabled and LGBT members to stand for selection as candidates?
We have to do more not only to help a broader range of people stand- including supporting financially those who are selected- but also to help them become involved in Labour in the first place. We shouldn’t wait until people join Labour, but actively seek to ‘scout’ out those who share our values but not our membership card and mentor them in their campaigning. This means valuing the process of helping people be active in itself. My own ‘circular firing up’ squad project to develop the leadership skills of women has already helped women become MEPs, PPCs and councillors as well as take on roles within their local parties and communities. Using this experience of how to develop leadership skills, I would invest in development and training support to help us proactively reach out to a broad range of people and support their involvement in politics – including developing their confidence and capacity to become candidates and win elections- at all levels of the party.
4. Do you support an equal minimum wage for young people?
I support the principle of a fair days pay for a fair days work at any age - that’s why I believe the Low Pay Commission must urgently investigate whether young people are being exploited by being paid the lower rate of the minimum wage to do the same job as those who are older, or whether the youth rate is supporting genuine access to jobs for young people alongside apprenticeships and internships. The rate of the minimum wage is just the start of getting this right - we have to do much more to ensure young people can get the training and development opportunities they require to get into work without being abused by employers seeking to avoid paying a proper wage. That’s why I have been a long time supporter and activist within the Intern Aware campaign and was proud that the four week limit on such positions became Labour party policy at the last election.
5. How can Labour get more young people involved in politics and increase electoral turnout amongst young people?
Despite their high levels of involvement in a broad range of causes, young people are no different to older people in feeling disengaged from the party political process – in thinking collective action doesn’t make a difference. Yet for us as a party of the left this sense of alienation is toxic because being able to work with other people through political participation is so vital to achieving social justice. We need to bust open the myth that you can’t continue being a campaigner if you go into politics because you have to compromise. Political activism at its best is about how we find answers to the challenges we face and put them into policy – campaigning organisations are equally vital in creating awareness of issues and the need to act. To change this I’d like to see the voting age for all elections reduced to 16, citizenship lessons in schools and more support for youth organisations that help young people learn the skills of advocacy and campaigns so that we challenge the notion politics doesn’t have an important role to play in changing the world. But I also think we can do more ourselves for all age groups to make us again the vehicle for their concerns for social justice. This means opening up our movement, using the latest techniques and technologies to make it easier, more meaningful and more powerful to be involved in politics. We could also better support the political education roles within our local parties and the work they can do in going into schools and helping young people become involved in local campaigns including encouraging young people to fulfil this role themselves.