Over the past year, Movement for Change and Labour Students have run Living Wage trainings and actions at universities across the UK. In the process, we’ve secured the Living Wage for low-paid employees (equating to as much as a £1,750 per annum pay increase in one case), including at the largest university in the country. Meanwhile, Movement for Change’s team of Community Organisers is training and developing students in areas as diverse as Swansea and Guildford to continue the campaigns into the new academic year.
Here, former Movement for Change organiser and current Secretary of Labour Students Teddy Ryan shares his personal thoughts on what Movement for Change activists have achieved so far.
TEDDY: The gulf between young people and politics has never been greater. The largest group of unregistered voters are those under the age of 25; the majority of those who are registered do not vote. Reversing that trend is a huge task for the Labour Movement and only by understanding the root of the problem can we begin to overcome it. Fundamentally, too many young people feel disconnected from politics and local political action is an alien concept to most.
The optimistic outlook for Labour is that with a renewed Labour Party under Ed Miliband, and with the Liberal Democrats discredited beyond repair, 2015 will see millions of young people turning to Labour as the party of hope and opportunity. The polls are good and internally we have more Young Labour and Labour Students groups than ever before, but the honest truth is that simply pushing Labour in front of the other two parties is not good enough. Rather than simply winning the fight over whether or not the Labour Party is a force for good, we must be prepared to have and win the argument that politics itself is a force for good. We must proactively demonstrate that young people are able to change their own communities through positive political action.
Over the past year, I’ve travelled the length and breadth of the country, visiting universities and Labour Clubs working on the Movement for Change/Labour Students Living Wage campaign. In a short space of time, students have demonstrated clearly that politics can make a real difference. By working with Movement for Change, Labour Students has proved that young people can take political action which goes beyond raising awareness and creating debate – they can change people’s lives.
With successes at Manchester, Kent and De Montfort as well as successful accreditation at LSE, the campaign is cause for celebration. However, the political energy within ongoing Movement for Change/Labour Students Living Wage campaigns must not be lost. Many active and growing campaigns exist and where there has been success the clubs there are now working on pushing the living wage beyond their campus.
I am proud of how the Living Wage campaign has made a difference. It helps us win the argument that political action can be a force for good in our communities. Over the next year, Labour Students and Movement for Change will continue the campaign, pushing it into the wider community. In doing this, and continuing to campaign hard for Labour on the doorstep, Labour students will seek to win the wider argument that politics and political action should be embraced and not ignored by Britain’s youth.
Find out more about Movement for Change’s Living Wage work, and contact us to get involved.