The Labour leadership campaign has been one that has been marred by negative campaigning, some of the Corbynites on Twitter shout ‘Tory’ at any dissenters’ and some of the Kendallites screech ‘Trot’ at those who disagree with them. I’m not going to get into negative campaigning, Liz is the leader I want, she’s the leader I’ve wanted from the beginning of the leadership election, and if she loses on the day she’ll be the leader I wish my party could have had. I was a Liz Kendall fan before it was cool, or uncool as the case may be. In a lot of ways I’m a Liz Kendall hipster fighting for my niche brand of socialism as passionately as I fight for bubblegum bass on spotify at pre-drinks.
I’ve always believed that the Labour Party in government was too statist, that we created too many laws that regulate how people behave, and that we were overly reliant on the state sector as means of delivering social change. I believe that Liz’s vision of Britain and of Labour is one where people are more free and more empowered, and that for me as a young person is massively exciting.
Under New Labour our approach seemed to be to spend money on services that were not routed in and led by local communities. An example of this was education, too often we allowed the agenda to be controlled from Whitehall and not by the schools themselves; this is not something that has changed under the Tories, their destructive conception of academies and free schools has removed local accountability from the system. I grew up in Somerset where the needs and wants of the community differ massively from those in London, the need for vocational and agricultural paths for young people was potent and immediate, but ignored by an education system controlled from the centre. Liz is the candidate to change this, she’s someone who has backed devolution and moving power to communities from the beginning and she’ll probably continue to back it whether she wins or loses. Liz has already committed to pushing power back into the hands of communities and to encouraging parents in disadvantaged areas to set up free schools as well as those in middle class areas.
I believe passionately that Liz’s strong adherence to fiscal credibility is something that will allow more creativity and better services. A perhaps unintended, yet positive, consequence of austerity has been that some services previously delivered by local authorities are now delivered by parish councils and local charities. In Somerset the youth service has been irrevocably changed by austerity, where youth centres were once centrally run they are now accountable to parish councils and young people are becoming more empowered to speak up for the services they love and feel that they have more of a stake in them. As with most Tory plans this does have a serious downside, in that youth work as a profession has become devalued as local communities seek to look for cheaper alternatives. A Liz Kendall government would progress, not regress, on services like the youth service; it would recognise the positive effects of austerity and seek to address the negatives without taking power away from local people who now have far more control over what they love.
As a student I believe Liz is the person who can give more young people the opportunities that I’ve had to go to university. She rightly recognises that tuition fees are not an evil in and of themselves, in that they prevent those who’ve never had the opportunity to go to university from paying for young people who attended Eton to go to Oxford through their taxes. The true cause of social immobility begins in the early years, it is wrong that kids from the poorest backgrounds start school fifteen months behind their peers and the billions it would cost would be better invested into free education should be invested into them, into their Sure Start centres, into their pre-schools and into free child care for their parents to go to work. I am happy to pay fees if that means more money can be invested in the poorest in our society.
For too many people globalisation has been something which has led to them being undercut in minimum wage jobs, to them feeling a sense that Britain is no longer a place in which they belong. Instead of pandering to UKIP we need to stand up for the freedom of movement in Europe, for the freedom of every single person, young or old, to work in Germany, or France, or Poland. The way we do this is through giving people the skills they need to take advantage of their freedom, it is notable that year by year, fewer and fewer young people choose to study languages; that amongst white working class young people who grew up in coastal and market towns, their educational attainment prevents them from truly becoming European citizens.
I’m voting for Liz Kendall because I don’t want to see more young people I know fail to reach their potential. That’s why I joined the Labour Party, that’s why I volunteer, that’s what drives me and what moves me. British socialism was born out of dissatisfaction with the class system, but also out of a pride in our country; in its diversity, in its embrace of democracy, in its radical tradition. The Labour movement must always seek to smash the class system and to ensure that all kids from all backgrounds and areas of the country can be whatever they want to be. That’s what aspiration is. It’s the simple idea that we should collectively take control over our communities and over our services, and that together we can achieve our dreams. This has been a negative election so here’s some youthful enthusiasm, we all need to fight for our candidate, but more importantly for our values, for what we think Labour is and what it should stand for. Liz is my candidate and I encourage all Labour members to write about theirs, to avoid the slurs, to avoid the negativity, to stop the mud slinging from consuming our movement and stopping us from getting kids out of poverty.
By Sam Foulder-Hughes