Cuts to Youth Services Are Failing Young People

By Clifford Fleming, Lambeth Green Party

Youth work is important. It is worth stating that right up-front, as over the last 6 years hardly a word has been mentioned on what has happened to the youth sector. It is almost as if everything is the same as it has always been. Unfortunately the reality is different.

Youth groups across the country have been decimated by cuts. Youth Centres and other youth services have in many cases, like much of the provision in Barking and Dagenham, vanished. Council budget cuts nearly always swing down on youth services first – a quick, often brutally large cut, that nobody is talking about. Cuts to social services and schools cause headlines. Cuts to youth work are hardly whispered outside local papers.

Youth services are so crucial for London. Across every borough hundreds of youth workers are tirelessly working in their communities, supporting vulnerable young people and building opportunities for those who would never have them otherwise. Organisations like Young Roots in Croydon and Project DOST in Newham, supporting asylum seekers and refugees. Organisations like South Central in Lambeth and Copenhagen Youth Project in Islington, working with young people at risk of violence. Many of these grassroot groups are the fabric of our communities. They work alongside parents and carers, councils and the police, social services and schools. They offer spaces for young people to talk. To play. To learn about who they are. To build their sense of worth.

Mental health is at crisis levels with young people. Counselling services are stretched and waiting lists for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are exceedingly long, often months. It is great to see that both the NHS, politicians and the wider public are taking wellbeing and mental health more seriously. But current answers are riddled with problems. An overstretched NHS is being asked to rely on community services, like youth work, yet these services are disappearing and are being cut to the bone. School teachers are being asked to step up when youth services disappear, but they are already stretched over cuts and larger class sizes.

Back in 2015, I was really pleased that the Young Greens of England and Wales chose defending youth services as a priority focus. As Co-Chair, I worked alongside the manifesto writing group to commit in the Green Party manifesto a reinvestment of the money lost over the previous 5 years. Sian Berry, Green Party London Assembly Member, recently released a report looking across London at cuts to youth services – and it is pretty shocking. She’s been working alongside the youth sector to try to amplify our voice. Across London we need to step up as Greens, talk more about this and defend services that are at risk. In Hounslow the council are proposing a cut of over £600,000 to the youth budget. Hounslow Green Party have been at the forefront of the battle to save youth centres.

If we truly seek to address inequality we have to focus on the next generation and early intervention. We need youth services to provide opportunities for young people whose families and carers have little resource to pay for expensive piano lessons and private coaching. Youth centres provide a unique environment for young people to build their social skills, their confidence and their self-esteem. In an age of increasing severity of mental health problems it is vital we step up our defence of these services.

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London Young Greens Support the Picturehouse Workers on Strike

The London Young Greens stand in solidarity with the Picturehouse and Ritzy workers on strike tomorrow for the living wage. Most of the cinema staff are on zero hours contracts and are not being paid enough to live on in the capital, while staff who have worked for less than a year are not being paid company sick pay  – despite Cineworld (who own Picturehouse) seeing profits of over £83 million a year.

London Young Greens urges supporters to join the demo in Leicester Square tomorrow and show support for the Picturehouse workers – because every worker deserves a living wage.

 

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London Young Greens Joins Calls for an End to Unpaid Internships

By Victoria Elliott, London Young Greens Co-Chair

A campaign for equal, fair internships is the current priority for the European Youth Intergroup (the team of politicians from different parties and all European countries whose concern is bettering policies related to young people). There’s a global intern strike planned for 20th February. You can see Terry Reintke, young Green MEP- and all-round awesome and inspirational young politician – from Germany, calling for an unequivocal end to unpaid internships here.

London Young Greens strongly supports this campaign and this strike. In the UK, an attempt to ban unpaid internships was blocked by Tory backbenchers last November (no prizes for guessing which Tory man put his penchant for filibustering into action again). Yet a glance at the W4MP website will show you multiple MPs and political parties seeking unpaid interns for their office at any time.

Unpaid internships reflect systemic ageist bias in our workplaces. The ideas that young people offer are undervalued as we are told that our work is not worth paying for. Meanwhile, organisations take advantage of the thousands of young people, desperate for any work experience, any route into a job, for the free labour they offer. It is beyond basic to suggest that someone must be paid for hours worked – and paid at a living wage.

But the most important issue at stake here is the essential barring of people from low-income backgrounds from whole industries. The domination by the privately educated of top jobs across sectors starts right at this level, with unpaid internships as an entry system into so many jobs. Obviously, the vast majority of young people cannot afford to work for free, so do not take these internships, then are not hired at assistant level due to their “lack of experience,” and so on.  

The system continues to perpetuate itself as cultural barriers are in place too, with young people from lower-income backgrounds or without university educations being put off from applying due to the lack of visible people like them in politics, the media, charities and the arts – where unpaid internships are most prevalent.

It is absurd that a politician can claim to work on behalf of all the people in this country and still offer these unpaid positions that give a leg-up to the rich while simultaneously exploiting young people’s eagerness for work experience. It is absurd that a charity (or the UN) can claim to promote human rights and equality across the world while doing the same thing.

London Young Greens calls on all politicians, charities, EU institutions and companies to pay interns at a living wage now – and stop disguising unpaid internships in the language of “volunteering” too.

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2016 Committee Reports

Below are the end of term reports submitted by the 2016 committee

Clare Keogh – Co Chair

I was somewhat involved in LYG prior to standing for committee and the difference I have seen over an 18 month period is fantastic. This years’ committee was made up of passionate, creative and clever activists and I hope those of you who can stay on for next years’ term, do so.

Over the last year I had hoped I would learn to organise internally and think more strategically. I’ve campaigned for years but it has always been very on the ground and face to face with the public. Working behind the scenes is very different and I think we need to do much more to make sure we have competent strategists and organisers throughout the party.

Early in my term, following the infamous debate in Parliament over airstrikes in Syria, I organised a meeting to discuss the situation and Western intervention in conflicts more generally. I was pleased to have CND and Stop the War attend, along with Caroline Russell for a great debate- though I learned that an event which takes place immediately before Christmas isn’t likely to pull in attendees unless there is a huge amount of publicising!

In early spring, amid the furore around the Junior Doctor’s contracts, I tried to pull together a campaign around the NHS and getting organised in Trade Unions. I designed graphics and wrote a blog post about the issue, which was published and shared at the time the main wave of strikes began. Alongside this I tried to put out a call, in partnership with the Green Party Trade Union Group, for activists to attend their local picket lines with cups of “SolidariTEA”. In Kingston, we managed to pull together a good turnout more than once and it worked very well.

As the dispute continued I arranged an event to talk about unions and the crisis facing the NHS. Incredibly, I managed to get a Unite the Union worker on the panel and I’ve since heard he had a telling off at work for it. Nonetheless, these are the sorts of links we need to be making.

In keeping with the “Get Organised” theme, I arranged an LYG trip to the Durham Miners’ Gala with Durham Green Party kindly offering our activists free accommodation for the weekend. Though, at the last minute, this had to be cancelled and I was incredibly disappointed, those links with Durham Green Party have been made and they have said they would be delighted to host activists next year. I also learnt some important lessons about getting people to commit to events- for trips away I think deposits are a great idea!

The LYG action days during elections this year have been fantastic and we have really built up a good reputation across London. Every one that I attended had a great turnout and there was always at least one new activist, which is a brilliant achievement.

In terms of what can be done better in future:

  • Delegation: There is a tendency, especially with more experienced committee members, for individuals to hold on to tasks and try to cover lots of different committee roles at once. The work needs to be shared, firstly to avoid activist burnout, but also to make sure that people who want to learn and develop skills are actually able to do so.
  • Accountability: There should be action points following every committee meeting and these should always be chased up at the next meeting.
  • Training: I think we should ask the party for specific training for committee members, for example in event planning, co-ordination and PR.

LYG is a fantastic group and I hope it continues to go from strength to strength over the coming years.

Joseph Harmer – Co Chair

My work as chair of London Young Greens in 2016 has been dominated by electoral campaigning.  There were two major votes affecting London this year – the Assembly and Mayoral elections in May, and the EU referendum in June – as well as numerous by-elections. Previous LYG efforts in election campaigns had been ineffectual, with action days poorly attended, and my first priority was to fix this. For the London elections, past electoral and demographic data was used to develop a strategy of where to focus limited resources. I developed an effective template for bringing more activists to action days, under the banner of “Paint the Town Green”. As a result of this, London Young Greens delivered the most effective electoral campaign in the history of the Young Greens movement in the UK. Similar results were achieved for the EU referendum campaign.

I have also developed the international connections of London Young Greens. As part of the EU referendum campaign, I arranged a visit from the Young Greens of Paris, who supported our campaigning and stayed with London Young Greens. In addition to this, I organised a trip to the European Youth Event in Strasbourg – crucially, I was able to secure sponsorship from Jean Lambert MEP, enabling a large group to attend. In addition to the above, I organised events on issues such as a panel on COP21 and drinks with Terry Reintke MEP.

The major challenges encountered were a high turnover of committee membership, the pressures of near-constant election campaigns, and lack of funding.

Looking forward, London Young Greens faces some serious challenges. Foremost is the loss of Development House as a regular venue for events and meetings. Venue hire is extremely expensive in London, and finding a permanent replacement will be a key objective for the incoming committee. This, combined with a declining membership (following the overall reduction in the Green Party’s membership) means that without a major commitment of energy and creative ideas from the committee, it is likely that the London Young Greens will struggle to maintain a high level of activity and broad scope of operations.

Victoria Elliott – Non-Portfolio Officer

I made the decision to run for committee last year the night before the AGM when I saw someone post in Young Greens Women encouraging more women to run, and I’m so glad I did. I’d been a member of the party for a while, involved in a few ways but hadn’t had much to do with London Young Greens.

This year through LYG I’ve felt so empowered and inspired to get involved more and more with the Party and in campaigning generally, and I really believe that as a group we’ve had an impact on the city. This is mostly down to the amazing organising and commitment of other members of the committee, as I could definitely be more proactive at times. But we’ve definitely all supported each other in our own ways – well done and thanks everyone!

In terms of personal highlights, I organised an event on queer politics which was really exciting for me. Peter Tatchell, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants and Green Party member Sahra Taylor spoke and it was a really interesting evening. I also organised a pub quiz which raised £158 for us – I’d love to do some more fundraising and come up with some fun ideas next year.

As a group, the highlight has definitely been our action days. We got really good at organising them and always had a great turnout of both old and new members. Phone-banking was really good as well, and it would be good to keep that up and be more strict with each other about doing it – I definitely struggled to motivate myself to get it done at times but it was really rewarding when we all did.

I’ve really enjoyed being part of this team – and I think we’ve been a great team in the face of losing and gaining committee members and really difficult times in national and global politics. I actually feel like a huge thing I’ve learned from being on committee was to work and communicate so much better in a group than I had before – so thank you everyone!

Sara Gill – Non-Portfolio Officer

I stood for Committee at my first ever Green Party meeting – the 2015 London Young Greens’ AGM. And what a year it’s been! We’ve had LOADS of elections and by-elections, the Referendum and some great events ranging from drinks with German MEP Terry Reintke to hosting a Panel on animal rights at Lush Oxford St.

Things we’ve achieved:

  • Number one – TEE SHIRTS!! These are great and defs think LYGs should do them again.
  • We’ve done some brilliant Action Days for elections (particularly for the London Mayor/Assembly one in Hackney, Lambeth and Kingston). LYGs has become a bit of a status symbol – local parties love having us at things and we’re able to bring enthusiastic, skilled people to actions which is brilliant.
  • Partway through the year we started a stricter social media ‘strategy’, taking a day each, and this seemed to work pretty well until we all got really busy (see below!)

Things we could do better/tips for future committee:

  • Better communications etiquette! Think about getting a Slack so that issues aren’t all discussed and lost in a big old thread. Also bear in mind everyone’s other commitments like work/family etc.
  • Social media/general comms: we could’ve stayed disciplined but unfortunately things all went a bit awry. Having loose agreed ‘rules’ was good and I’d suggest it’s really important (this also comes from doing social media for Hackney’s by-election campaign).
  • Take minutes of all meetings with clear action points to hold us all accountable. I know there were a few things I didn’t do.
  • Phonebanking was awesome, keep it up.
  • Better connections with local parties would be great. The Borough Reps Scheme could be so good! As a group we need to figure out how to make it work better.
  • This year had so many big things happening that I don’t think we had time/energy to create the space for ‘just’ discussions. I think that’s important and maybe just a regular get together, without any big actions, might be nice for members to develop their Green politics.

Personally, my highlight was probably the work I was part of for the London Mayor and Assembly elections back in May. I’d never campaigned for a political party before and was pretty nervous about it but after some training I felt more confident and organised a training event before the first of our Action Days in Hackney. Spreading the Green message on doorknocking and leafletting sessions has become something I actually enjoy and have continued to do so on a personal level that was brilliant. I’m so pleased with how many LYGs got involved in the elections too – we became a bit of a force and I’m really proud of that. Also our election result was brilliant, so great work all!!

Overall I’m really glad I stood for the Committee a year ago – it fulfilled my need to be more involved in “IRL” politics and I’ve met some brilliant people who I count as friends. At times I struggled to make the time to be as involved as I wanted to be, through working fulltime and having quite a busy year (summer was weddings/festivals/30th birthdays EVERY weekend), so beware of burnout, budding Committee members! But I think now more than I’ve ever known before it’s important to have that solidarity and motivated in being politically active.

A big thanks to everyone else who’s been on the Committee or been involved this year. You’ve made getting involved easy, fun and really worthwhile. I’m sad I’m officially an ‘old’ Green now, but I’m excited to see how the LYGs continue to develop so keep up the good work!!

Aaron Parr – Non-Portfolio Officer

I was co-opted into London Young Greens in early 2016 having helped to establish the Queen Mary Young Greens university society.  My first task in the role was to co-organise a social for London and South East Young Greens at Spring Conference.  Since then, we’ve been very active as a region in the midst of a referendum and the London Mayor elections.

For the local elections, I created the London Young Greens campaign video that was shared over 100 times.  I also increased the online presence of LYG by applying my social media skills with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I also learned a lot by promoting LYG, and it encouraged me to take social media further into a cats-for-the-EU campaign, mEUw, and now professionally.

For the EU referendum, Sara and I co-ordinated the LYGs event with Lush Oxford Street, ‘what the EU does for animals?’ We invited the South-East Green MEP and Spokesperson for animals, Keith Taylor, and the leader of the Animal Welfare Party, Vanessa Hudson. The event got over 30 people along, despite having been delayed and reorganized as EU campaigning stopped after the tragic death of Jo Cox.

After the previous highly political months, London Young Greens didn’t slow down. We continued to do ‘Paint the Town Green’ action days, and we began to get more organised.  Two particular projects I spearheaded were student outreach and the committee phonebanking scheme.

The student outreach project aimed to attract new members by creating and re-establishing old Young Greens university and college groups.  We created a mail merge to reach out to members who we believed were students and created a social media presence to show LYG will offer support to new groups.  The difficulty was our membership data wasn’t always up to date and it was hard to mobilise without a political momentum that comes in the run up to big elections.

When joining London Young Greens, the active societies were: Queen Mary, Brunel and Kings. Since then, Brunel and Kings have dispersed, but Kings is re-affiliating.  SOAS and Royal Holloway are beginning to be established.  We are also hoping to develop Goldsmiths, Greenwich, and UEL in the future.

The committee phonebanking scheme saw the committee phonebanking new young members in London to talk about why people joined the party and what they could get involved with. It was my responsibility to allocate the members to be called as well as calling people myself.  The committee decided to do this because we felt there wasn’t enough engagement with all the members and we wanted to reach out more.  Although having some positive conversations with some new members, and several were informed of our events and came along, the scheme was not as successful as I would have liked and we haven’t seen a dramatic increase in active members.  It would have helped if everyone in the committee took the scheme seriously and called their members having initially agreed to the concept.  However I really appreciate everyone who played their part and deserve utmost credit.

I have learned an incredible amount being part of London Young Greens, through my role and from my fellow committee members.  For the most part, we worked well together and I’m pleased to say we appear to be the most active regional group in the country.  Having been elected as the Young Greens Senate Co-Chair, I can see how London has been neglected from discussions in the past, which is a great shame since London Young Greens has a lot it can pass on to other regional groups that do not have the same organisational capacity.

In particular, I want to commend Sara Gill on her contribution to London Young Greens.  As a another non-portfolio committee member, you put in more into this society than you had to and I am very appreciative of your help running the EU event, picking up the slack wherever you could, and being an emotional support throughout the year.

At times, London Young Greens has been a source of frustration. For some time, we have not had the structure necessary to achieve everything we wanted. Some committee members certainly gave more to their roles than others.  There was also a lack of delegation that I found difficult, which sometimes became detrimental.  We should have had scheduled meetings throughout the year and more of a long term plan. It was hard to have input from an organisational point of view having been co-opted and not knowing who was supposed to do these key elements. Because we did not have regular meetings, organizing through online chats became stressful. Sometimes I would not get any responses to valid questions or requests, and I would also get no confirmation when things were done.  There was also no way of holding people to account when communications shut down. For someone who considers themselves neurodiverse, communication is really important, and I think the co-chairs could have been better communicators.

I am standing for re-election as there are somethings I have not achieved and somethings I want to continue. So looking onto the future:

Student outreach: continue setting up societies since London is such a student hub.

  • Phonebanking: make sure we are committed to calling up new members since this will be a great investment in the long run.
  • Events: there are some events that I would love to co-ordinate, such as events on: neurodiversity, the green economy, and what is a councilor and what young people can do in local elections?
  • Structure: making sure we have monthly committee meetings and a yearly calendar.
  • Snap election: preparing ourselves just incase the worst happens
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LYG AGM 2016 – Join the Committee!

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On Sunday 20 November, London Young Greens will be holding our AGM! This is your chance to get involved with the most vibrant Young Green group in the country, as well as an opportunity to meet Young Greens from across London and learn about the work of the past 12 months. Register your attendance now via our eventbrite.

We will be electing 2 co-chairs (at least one of which must not be a man), a treasurer, secretary, and 7 non-portfolio officers. If you’d like to stand, please email info@londonyounggreens.org.uk with

  • Your full name
  • Your local party
  • The role you are standing for
  • A statement of no more than 300 words explaining why you are standing for the committee

Whether you’re a veteran or have never been to a Green Party meeting, joining the LYG committee is a great opportunity to make a real impact in London politics. Experience is less important than a willingness to get stuck in and a desire to change the world. If you have any questions about the roles, please send up an email at info@londonyounggreens.org.uk, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!

You can keep up to date with the announcements via the facebook event.

See you there!

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I hate going to nightclubs, but I will defend to the death your right to party in them

By Victoria Elliott, London Young Greens committee member

On Tuesday 7th September, Islington Council announced the permanent closure of London’s iconic nightclub, Fabric. The decision has been met with widespread disappointment and condemnation, by the Mayor of London, a number of drug-related NGOs including Transform Drug Policy Foundation and Drugwise, and hundreds of thousands of DJs and club-goers, past and present. Our own Green Councillor in Islington, Caroline Russell, fought the Labour majority to save the club, expressing regret that the Council did not work with Fabric to improve safety and keep its doors open.

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Fabric opened its doors in East London in 1999

So, why the furore over one expensive central-London club? It’s really about a lot more than just this venue – epochal as it has been on the world clubbing scene. Fabric is merely the latest in a long line of closed clubs and pubs (many of them the already sparse queer spaces) across the city in the last decade and its closure represents so much more than the end of one club’s nights. In this fate, Fabric finds itself at an intersection of the racist war on drugs, aggressive gentrification and specifically urban class and age inequalities, where the young simply keep on losing.

That the prohibition of drugs has been an abject failure is a truism at this point. The war on drugs has cost billions in the name of safety, yet clearly keeps us no safer – and in fact has propelled a racist discrepancy in criminal convictions in the UK as well as the US. Nonetheless, the Council have claimed that Fabric has been closed over concern for the partiers due to a “culture of drug use” and a desire to see the danger this poses eradicated.

Given that experts and case studies repeatedly tell us that criminalisation leads to more dangerous drugs making it onto a more dangerous market, and given that we know people will continue to seek their deserved thrills and fun no matter what the legality of the particular substances involved (and here I will take for granted that we can all see the blatant political hypocrisy where alcohol is involved) – Islington’s council is, at best, naive, and, at worst, knowingly abdicating its responsibility to ensure the safety of its constituents. Instead of understanding that people simply are not going to stop using drugs recreationally and seeking to implement better harm-reduction strategies, they have revoked the license and displaced any potential future drug-related problems to another venue – or, worse, underground.  

Here, I think, the real stake becomes starkly evident. From Councils to the Commons, our elected officials simply do not consider young people to be constituents worth caring about. Maybe it’s because we are less likely to vote, or maybe it’s because we have less money and less influence over other people’s money. No one would argue that the recent deaths of the two young people at Fabric – and all the other drug-related deaths – are anything but tragedies. But clearly, there is a serious difference in the treatment of this venue compared to, for example, the (£415-£950 per night) Dorchester hotel, where a man sadly died of a cocaine overdose last week. There are no calls, other than in irony, to shut those gilded doors for good.

Thus, the ongoing closure of venues mostly frequented by the young across the city displays a blunt disrespect for youth culture and young people. This is direct in the case of the Islington Council, and indirect in the form of gentrification and absurd property prices and hiking rents that are pushing the young and the working classes out of the city. There is little doubt that the space these clubs have taken up will make way for expensive flats or the only corporate eateries who can afford the skyrocketing rent. As Clash Magazine put it, the Fabric closure “seems to solidify the belief amongst young people that London simply does not belong to them. It belongs to bankers and real estate agents, and not clubbers, promoters and DJs.”

The Black Cap, an LGBT+ club in Camden, closed in April 2015
The Black Cap, an LGBT+ club in Camden, closed in April 2015

It is the more vulnerable and marginalised in society who are the first victims of gentrification, as we are seeing in this case and – vitally – in the high numbers of queer venues that have shut down in recent years. In all the thinkpieces following Fabric’s closure, there has been mention of other clubs being shut but never specific acknowledgement of the disproportionate number of LGBT+ spaces among them. Focusing on queer clubs is important because in this we can highlight how a nightclub is so much more than a place where people come to drink and dance.

Queer clubs in London have for decades acted as safe, welcoming spaces for groups of people who are marginalised, abused, judged and mistreated, and remain such vital parts of those communities. Dan Savage wrote about this beautifully after the Orlando massacre in June: “I had been told that being gay meant being alone, that being homosexual meant being miserable, that being queer meant being loveless, friendless, and joyless. Then I walked into a gay bar where I saw men with their friends and men with their lovers. I saw men dancing and I saw men laughing. I found a community that I had been told didn’t exist.”

While Fabric isn’t exactly a safe-haven for the oppressed in the same way as those places Savage refers to, the value of all spaces where people can come together, dance and let go of their day-time worries is much, much greater than another set of expensive flats with a Pret downstairs. Young people, and queer people, need places to exist for us – we need places we can go to not work. Our city is taking these places away and pushing us out.

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Green #MembersMatter

By Sara Gill, Hackney Green Party and LYG Committee member

I’ve been a member of the Green Party since just after 2015’s General Election. I joined because I wanted to do something real and positive about what I saw as a lurch to the right in the UK’s politics, rather than just getting angry on that big old echo chamber online.

Since I’ve joined, I’ve felt welcome and valuable. My first event was the London Young Greens AGM, where I was supported to stand for a committee position – and was elected. Since then I’ve literally got the (so hip and stylish) T-shirt – I’ve been involved in training, canvassing, demonstrations and socials. I’ve been encouraged to stand for other, national positions, as a candidate in an election and to write a policy motion for conference. My voice is sought and respected, even though I’m a pretty ‘green’ Green.

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For your own snazzy #Membersmatter sign, click here and join the campaign!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The London Mayoral and Assembly elections in May and the Gipsy Hill by-election shortly after showed what a difference members can make – our time spent pounding London’s streets, door-knocking and leafleting together ensured great results: 3rd place in London overall and only 36 votes in it in Gipsy Hill!

Alongside other Greens, I feel like I am finally making some real-life change.

I’ve always felt closest to the Greens in terms of policy: belief in a fair electoral system (without tactical voting), positivity about migrants and obviously a commitment to environmental justice are all close to my heart.

September sees the Green Party Conference coming to Birmingham. It’ll be my first, and I’m excited. The Young Greens organise a Buddy scheme to make everyone feel welcome and help us engage with it all, so no nerves here.

Ordinary members put policy forward in advance and then everyone at conference votes on it: there aren’t delegates or bloc votes. I’ve just finished my prioritisation ballot, to collectively pick the order of motions.

This September, we’ll also be electing our new leader together (seems to be the season for it!). In the Green Party, it feels like we, the members, really do matter and are at the heart of shaping the party.

13 months on from joining the Greens, I once again feel like we’re entering a dark, difficult time for politics. If you want to be part of creating a progressive future, get involved and join us!

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Les Strasbourgeousies: Young Greens go to Strasbourg

By Vicky Elliott

A group of 13 of us London Young Greens convened in Strasbourg last weekend to attend the European Youth Event, including one who joined us from their Erasmus in Düsseldorf and another already in situ working for the European Court of Human Rights. This biannual forum sees thousands of young people from across Europe come together in discussion and debate, with ideas exchanged, decision-makers questioned and a surprisingly wide array of vegan food enjoyed.

IMAG0633For the Brits in attendance it was – needless to say – of special significance, as we asked ourselves: will we still be here next time?

And the question of the Brexit was certainly a prominent topic throughout the weekend. At a debate entitled “You say goodbye… I say hello,” we heard two opinions from each side and – more interestingly – dozens more from the young Europeans in the audience. The speakers themselves followed what is a fairly well-trodden path at this point, from the socialist arguing to leave because of the undemocratic nature of the institutions, to the pragmatist arguing to stay because of the economy. The panel’s four white men (to one woman of colour) certainly reflects the extremely man-dominated state of this debate in the British media too. 

However, when the points from the floor started, there was true passion from a variety of young voices – many of them not British, but Finnish, Polish and French, all equally invested in the question. The conversation was deeper and more respectful than any to be heard in the media at home, without the unerring focus on migration, and no false, scaremongering statistics on either side – although bizarrely one Belgian eurosceptic who was enamoured with David Cameron’s Big Society! 

I hadn’t realised that many young Europeans are concerned about what a Brexit would mean for the power of the far-right forces in their communities – since undoubtedly it will strengthen xenophobia and euroscepticism across Europe, just as in Britain the vote to leave legitimises the far-right of the Tories and UKIP.

For a Green, much of this debate has been alienating, given the overarching themes of nationalism and economic growth on both sides. It’s either: stay in so we can influence Europe and mould it to suit us, or leave so we can reject the rules of those foreign bureaucrats and close our borders. To have the conversation with Europeans, both in seminars and socially around the event, was refreshing and illuminating.  

It wasn’t all about the Brexit, but we could only go to a small handful of events out of so many amazing options. The documentary Cowspiracy was screened and a number of events were held on animal rights and what Europe has done for them. As Caroline Lucas wrote in the Guardian, the EU has been at the forefront of fighting cosmetics cruelty and improving conditions for farmed animals.

A discussion about mental health stigma was well-attended. This is an area where there is a clear generational divide in understanding, as young people across the continent are at the forefront of fighting for change. We heard from Julie Ward, a Labour MEP. She talked convincingly about the intersections of mental health with austerity and sexism, reminding us that mental health is a deeply political issue and its stigma and taboo are systemic in a patriarchal society and an enforced climate of austerity.

We tracked down Farage’s seat to take a photo in it for the #ImWithEU campaign

Conflicting views were exchanged during the closing event in the plenary chamber, where the Front National Jeunesse were out in force. Debate raged on for over an hour, varying from questions about reparations for European colonial atrocities to Europe’s duty to welcome refugees. A vote on the question “Does the EU have a duty to welcome migrants?” saw 619 yes votes and 184 no votes, to claps and boos more reminiscent of PMQs than the altogether more sophisticated European Parliament.

In the end, my highlight was a magnificent talk in the packed plenary chamber from Samantha Cristoforetti, the Italian ESA astronaut who spent 200 days on the International Space Station last year and who was the first person to brew an espresso in space! Samantha told us all about everyday life on the ISS, including their celebrations of each birthday and various national holidays with Canadians, Americans, Russians and Europeans working together. She also mentioned that she is learning Chinese through the ESA now that she is back on Earth, so that there might be better cooperation and collaboration with the Chinese Space Agency.

It is always striking – despite what the stabbing of American flags into the moon suggests – how profoundly supranational astronauts become when they’ve seen our planet in panorama, its borders invisible. 

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It was an incredibly positive, exciting and enriching weekend, that both reinforced my Green-ness and challenged me intellectually. I came home glad that I got involved with the Party and deeply satisfied to be part of the international Green movement. Despite being a member for longer, it’s only been nine months since I went to my first London Young Greens meeting and the opportunity to attend events like this and make so many new friends – both the like-minded and not so like-minded! – has been fantastic.

So a huge thank you to Jean Lambert for funding our attendance, and to our co-chair Joseph for organising it all.

Hopefully we’ll see you next time, Strasbourg!

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I Can’t Vote Because of the Housing Crisis

The housing crisis is the issue cited by Londoners as the most important one for the future Mayor to tackle. However, some people who would like to vote for a candidate that has promised real changes, such as the London Renters Union promised by the Green Party candidate, Sian Berry, are denied the right to vote because of the housing crisis already – and I have found myself being one of them.

I have lived in London for almost five years now and as a Polish national living and working in London, I am allowed to vote in the upcoming London Mayoral Elections on 3rd May. The only thing I would have to do to is to register online on the British Government website, like any other British national, a process which takes only about five minutes. It turned out, however, that for some people registering to vote might not be that easy, especially if you’re a part of the Generation Rent like me.

After receiving the initial letter from my local Electoral Registration Officer confirming my registration in late November 2015, I was then informed two weeks later that I am no longer able to vote. As my Electoral Registration Officer explained in a letter, “[they] have been informed” that I no longer live at the address. The (not so) funny thing is, that I actually do live there until now. The letter has also given me the option to appeal against the decision within 14 days in writing, after which I would be scheduled an official hearing.

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I’m renting a room in a house owned by a small estate agency managed by three people and I’m guessing the mysterious body that “informed” the Electoral Register Office was my landlords. I didn’t do anything about it as to be fair, I was worried that if I say something, I will be kicked out. I was just not up for looking for a new flatshare – with all the stories about speed flatmating, competitions for the tenants-to-be and after seeing some places that I wouldn’t live in even if someone paid me to, looking for a new home seemed like an unhuman toll, especially while doing a final year at a university.

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Over the last ten years, the housing bubble has led to a 25 per cent increase of homes with six tenants or more. Most contributing to it are families, where increasingly often adult children are living with parents, sometimes until they are in their 30s, and also migrants who cannot afford renting a house or just simply want to save money, or young people coming to London to study or look for career opportunities (ticked two out of three, lucky me). This leads to situations just like mine. Landlords don’t want to admit how many people live in their houses, as often they are illegally overcrowding their properties. As a result, less affluent people are not allowed to vote, and the rich vote for their candidates.

The changes to the electoral registration system, which were implemented in December 2015, instead of the previously planned December 2016, are not helping either. Now, especially a lot of young people, such as students who previously were automatically registered by student halls, will be denied the right to vote if they don’t do it individually. And let’s face it – that will make already disengaged young voters even more reluctant. The deadline for registering to vote at the London Mayoral Elections is on the 18th of April. My guess is that some people will only realise that they need to register after the date or will just decide it’s too much hassle.

Is this a move made on purpose by the current government, I shall not guess, but I shall use it as a motivation to do everything I can to make sure I am registered before the 18th of April and able to vote for Sian Berry on the 3rd of May. The London Renters Union proposed by Sian could have prevented a situation just like mine and if brought to life, could potentially empower a lot of tenants who right now have no genuine rights. And even if we don’t get a Green Mayor of London this time round yet, voting for Sian will be one of the ways to send the message to everybody out there that action on this ridiculous housing bubble is needed and that the people of London want a change.

by Marta Zając 

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Baby’s First Canvass (or: how I learned to stop worrying and love doorknocking)

2016-01-31 2016 London Elections

Hello. I’m Sara. I’ve been a Green Party member since just after the 2015 General Election and a LYG Committee member since October’s AGM.

 

With the London elections coming up on May 5th 2016, we’re all thinking about how to get the Green vote out. Speaking to people face to face is widely regarded as the most effective way to engage people, and so it’s a vital part of campaigning.

As a relatively new (but actually Quite Old) Young Green, I’d surprisingly never been canvassing before. Until Saturday, that was. The Hackney Greens, my local group, are spending time every weekend from now until polling day canvassing and so I went along to their door-knocking at the weekend.

I’d had some concerns that, in the interest of full disclosure, had stopped me getting involved before: will people be interested? Will they be super-interested and want to grill me on the minutiae of policy I don’t know all about? Or even (definitely overly cynically!) will I get shouted at, or have doors slammed in my face?

I wasn’t feeling massively confident, but the knowledge that it really is the best way to encourage people to vote – and vote Green – the wedge of leaflets in my Green-issued tote, plus the seasoned campaigner by my side (HI SAMIR, Northeast Assembly Candidate!) calmed any fears I had.

Helpfully I’d also been to a great training event a few weeks ago run by Samir and the Hackney Greens, around how to have meaningful conversations with voters and turn people into supporters. We’re running similar training this week, on Thursday 17th March at 7:30pm – do come along!

After a quick briefing and recap of the training, we set off around a few streets in London Fields, knocking on doors and speaking to people there for an hour and a half (any longer and I was assured I’d be knackered). Samir took the first few houses so I could learn the ropes, and once I felt ready, I started out. While the first couple were daunting, I soon got into the swing of it and started to enjoy myself (the gorgeous sunny weather definitely helped!).

My verdict? Honestly, it was one of the best things I’ve done so far as part of the Green Party. People were overwhelmingly friendly and happy to see us, which I didn’t expect! While a few people were busy, or not interested, not one person was rude, and on the whole we had some really good, positive conversations with people. I think just showing the Green Party is bothered is a really strong message – a few people told us they’d never been canvassed before and that as a result they would look into our policy positions. I found people were very much open to voting Green: even staunch Labour supporters or those buoyed by Corbyn offered their second preferences to us on the doorstep (hurrah – no ‘wasted votes’ this time!).

I’d definitely encourage all Young Greens to get involved in campaigning in their local areas, or at one of our Action Days coming up (the first is in London Fields again on 26th March, info here).

Some tips/observations from me:

Relax. New canvassers will be given training and will never be sent out on their own, and if at any point you feel out of your depth, you can always ask for help. Everyone is just really happy you’re there and grateful for your time!

Most people, realistically, will be out or won’t answer the door (over half). We have leaflets to drop through letterboxes for this precise reason, as it’s still worth letting them know the Greens called round and are present and active in the area.

Listen to people’s concerns. Often I found people really wanted to raise issues they had in their local area to a friendly ear. Active listening (nodding, “hmmm”ing etc) and expanding on their experience with your own (“oh yeah, I know what you mean about housing! I have a friend who’s in a similar situation…”) is a great way to engage with someone and start building that meaningful conversation.

If you’re stumped by a voter’s question, be honest and say so. We had leaflets to give to people and put through letterboxes with the website, some brief info about policy and contact details for people to get more information.

Be calm, friendly and smile! People are actually OK, honest!

Come to the training event on the 17th! *

 

By Sara (who is totally going doorknocking again) – @Sara_LYG

Sara LYGs

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