Liam Gleeson’s Speech to Scottish Young Labour Conference 2017

Liam Gleeson is the Chair of Scottish Young Labour.

“Conference, I’m Liam Gleeson from the leaflets.

I’m a worker, a student, and a socialist. And today I’m standing to be your next Chair of Scottish Young Labour.

I want to start by thanking you all for coming, especially those who have travelled across the country to be here.

The enthusiasm and commitment of you, our activists, is our party’s greatest resource, and it’ll take many more 5am starts, long bus journeys, and nights spent crashing on floors to take this party to where we have to be.

I believe that today’s turnout is a testament to the work of the outgoing committee. And I’m proud to have served as your Vice-Chair over the past year.

If I’m being honest though, we inherited a paper organisation.

When we were elected, Scottish Young Labour was just a Twitter handle and a Facebook page.

This weekend is our first stand alone conference. And tomorrow is the first time that we will debate and pass motions.

The workshops this weekend will be political and member-led. They will deal with the real issues facing the Left.

Scottish Young Labour has come a long way from the careers fair it once was. And this is because we’ve not been afraid to take political positions.

Over the past year:

– we’ve condemned dawn raids

– we’ve mobilised against deportations

– we’ve campaigned for rent controls

– and we’ve stood alongside striking janitors fighting against cuts, even though it meant calling out a Labour council.

I appreciate that some people disagree with Scottish Young Labour taking these stances.

But this is a political organisation.

We all have politics and we can’t hide from that because it makes us uncomfortable.

What really matters is that we debate our ideas with respect and decency, and that when we disagree we do so in good faith.

We are better than the subtweets, the blogs, the open letters, and the intrigue.

We are not Labour Students and we never will be.

But we still have big problems. And there’s a lot about our party that needs to change.

We are too insular. We don’t engage enough with people outside Scottish Labour. And – let’s be honest – that’s a lot of people.

Politics isn’t confined to what Kezia Dugdale or Jeremy Corbyn do or say.

It’s in our workplaces, in our communities, and in our streets.

And Scottish Young Labour isn’t.

Elect me, and we will organise in our workplaces. Giving young people the resources and the contacts they need to fight for better pay and conditions.

Elect me, and we will be active in our communities. And unite them against those who seek to divide us by who we are and where we born.

And elect me, and we will be on the streets. Marching against Trump, May, and the rise of the far right.

But if this is to mean anything at all, then our party needs to be more ambitious.

Our solution to ScotRail is a fare freeze.

Our answer to the housing crisis is a help-to-buy ISA.

We are polling between 12 and 15% and the party still doesn’t seem to know why.

But I know that this room is bursting full of ideas.

But the party won’t hear it.

And this is a symptom of the biggest problem of all.

And that, is that our party needs to change how it treats young people.

Last week Thomas Docherty, a former MP, attacked Louis on Facebook for simply sharing an article.

Last year Jim Murphy tried to block Rhea from standing for the National Executive Committee.

The only way for young people to be heard in our party is for them to say nothing at all

Because if you’re not friendly with the right people, if you have to work shifts, or care for your relatives instead of knock doors, even if you don’t go to university and join a Labour club, then the opportunities that are open to others aren’t open to you.

Young people are more than a gimmick. We have ideas, we have talent, and we’re not just here to cut the average age on the conference floor.

We need to fix this

So here’s what I’m going to do.

I will implement a programme of political education and activist training, open to all.

I will work with trade unions to organise workers; so that our new liaison position is more than just tokenism.

I will provide liberation officers with the finances to run their own campaigns.

And I will pressure the party to create a full time youth officer, elected by and accountable to you.

Look, I’m going to be sincere.

I’m not standing today because I want to be something or someone.

I’m not standing today because I want to add to my CV or be an MSP.

I’m standing today because I believe that this party needs to change if we want to transform society.

We have to set our ambitions higher.

We are a group of committed, intelligent, and good looking young people.

I believe that we, together in this room, can and must do that.
Let’s go out and organise, because we have a world to win.”

 

You can join Scottish Labour Young Socialists for just £3 here – http://www.campaignforsocialism.org.uk/young-socialists/

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