The Labour Party has failed young people; the Greens are now failing them

Brighton has had, for several generations, a tradition of resistance.  In the 1930s, when Oswald Mosely’s Black Shirts tried to rally in Brighton, there were fierce street battles, and the fascists were prevented from meeting on The Level.  In the 1960s, with the founding of Sussex University, radical student activity abounded, with sit-ins and demonstrations. In the 1970s there were dozens of left-wing and anarchist groups operating in Brighton, based around the old Resource Centre where the Brighthelm Centre now stands.  Punk, New Wave, and Ska music vied with the politics of fascist groups. Feminist and separatist women’s politics was flourishing.

The arrival of the Thatcher government in 1979, and with it mass unemployment, saw Right to Work marches, the People’s March for Jobs, and more fascist activity.  The National Front was active locally, with many of its national leaders living locally. The Anti-Nazi League attracted lots of support from students and young activists, although not from the Militant-dominated Labour Party Young Socialists who supported the less militant Committee Against Fascism.  Militant and the LPYS didn’t support the opposition to the Falklands War, but hundreds of young people did march against the war.  This growing activism created momentum that led to Labour’s assault on the Tories 130 year control on Brighton Council.  Hundreds of young activists had joined the Party and led by David Lepper and Steve Bassam, Labour took control of the Council in 1986 for the first time ever.

The Poll Tax created further momentum and support for the Party peaked in 1990.  But within two years all was lost when the Brighton Labour Party was closed down as part of Kinnock’s witch hunt against Militant.  The Party has never properly recovered and young activists today are few and far between.  The anarchist and fringe left groups have gone.  Small, marginalised groups have emerged, but they are characterised by sectarianism and an inability to organise and mobilise.  Some young people have maintained their political awareness, but mainly in single-issue campaigning.  More often than not, they have become disillusioned and disengaged.  And who can blame them.

The Labour Party in government betrayed the heritage that brought advantage to many of its leaders by introducing tuition fees and saddling generations of graduates with years and years of debt.  Housing is a major concern and so too are job prospects.  The Greens, who should be in a position to harness the anger, aspirations and idealism of young people, are showing themselves to be poor organisers and somewhat elitist, in spite of the success of Caroline Lucas.  A question the Greens must answer is: why are talented young activists like Tom French in the Labour Party and not part of the next chapter of the Green’s march forward in Brighton?

The Labour Party has failed young people, the Greens are failing to capitalise.  What a failure by both.

8 Responses

  1. Just to be clear, Tom’s odd choice is Caroline’s fault how?

  2. Unfortunately your analysis doesn’t match the facts. The recent surge of new Labour members in Brighton Pavilion shows we have a very encouraging number of new young members joining us.

    In fact, in general too, the number of new members across Brighton and Hove joining since the GE is very encouraging all round. 🙂


  3. Moon on a stick, that’s what you want.
    In all serious the title of your post is misleading: “The Labour Party has failed young people; the Greens are now failing them.” Your conclusion seems to actually be that the Greens are failing to capitalise on other groups shortcomings not directly failing young people at all.
    Whilst I think Caroline Lucas’s election is remarkable and shows the Green Party is both principled and well organised, there’s no room for complacency.
    However, your criticism of the Green Party seems to boil down to Tom French not being a member. Perhaps he seeks a quick route to power like other younger Labour Party members. Perhaps he feels that the Labour Party can still be salvaged as a progressive force in British politics. My suggestion is you ask him why he’s not in the Green Party rather than blame the Green Party for failing to attract every person you consider to be a positive activist.
    As for the claim that the Greens are elitist and poor organisers, it might carry some weight if you provided examples.

  4. BPB,

    Perhaps you need reminding about Caroline’s numerous interventions during the Stop The Cuts campaign at Sussex over the last two years and the overwhelming number of students who voted Green at the election (I can reveal that Labour received the lowest number of votes from students on polling day at the University of Sussex).

    Just look at the age demographic of the Green councillors, much younger than any of the other parties. Vicky W-J and Alex Phillips are both members of the Young Greens nationally, and Vicky has been working on the Brighton Living Wage campaign (perhaps you’re a little out of touch BPB).

    Nationally, Caroline has been a leading voice against the cuts to the Connexions service across the city ( and the Greens were the only party to enage with the Brighton Benefits Campaign and Brighton Stop The Cuts (where were the Labour councillors and members at last week’s meeting?)

    Labour has a tradition of telling people what they think and seeking to dominate local movements and, when they can’t, they don’t bother engaging at all. Whereas the Greens have a tradition of listening and engaging with movements and people beyond our tribe.

  5. Having just come back from our national conference in Birmingham, this post jars with the reality. Conference was full of young members, many of them recent joiners, brimming with energy and ideas.

    If I recall correctly we have three young greens on our national executive this year. How many young Labour members are on their national executive? By the looks of things it’s all old hands from unions and one lone Young Labour member.

    We have a strong Green presence at both Universities here. We can do much more, and we’ll keep working to build on past successes, but in the meantime I dispute your conclusions.

  6. I should say that the Green councillors are by far the healthiest on Brighton and Hove Council.

  7. As a 21 year old member of Brighton and Hove Green Party i find the idea that the young people in Brighton are turning to Labour quite misleading.

    During the general election i was campaigning for the Greens at Sussex Uni. There were many students campaigning for the Greens there, On election day there were at least 20 students helping out at the university and i only saw only 1 labour activist.

    I think the difference between Young Green and Young Labour activists is that Young Green activists like to do lots of campaigning outside of the Green Party too, they help the greens when it comes to elections but often they are also active in many other organisations. I know thats the case myself, in fact one of the reasons i like the Green party is number 9 of the core values is:

    “Electoral politics is not the only way to achieve change in society, and we will use a variety of methods to help effect change, providing those methods do not conflict with our other core principles.”

  8. ‘ think the difference between Young Green and Young Labour activists is that Young Green activists like to do lots of campaigning outside of the Green Party too’

    I know A LOT of young Labour activists, and I cannot think of one who is not active in campaigns outside the party, local volunteer work etc etc.

    Think before you type.

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