Tuesday, October 31, 2006

LDYS: Winning Soon?

As with anything else at all, when discussing the present state of LDYS, context is everything.

Since what can only be described (in order to protect the guilty) as the Royal Festival Hall incident, the attitude of those charged with running LDYS and in particular of its Chairs has been that the only solution to LDYS' problems is the political equivalent of carpet-bombing; complete overhaul of every section of the organisation's activities led by a completely new constitution.

Now that in itself is fair enough; even those in the constitutional wonk end of the organisation (or as it has come to be known, for reasons that will hopefully soon be obvious, the Committee for Public Safety) agree that the organisational structure is by no means perfect. The idea in and of itself continues to have little to do with what is holding LDYS back.

For that, we must turn to the mentality evidenced by the actions of those pursuing reform. The last two LDYS Conferences (Spring 2006, Leeds and Autumn 2006, Colchester) have essentially been dominated by the reform debate, and in both cases the approach of the ringleaders has been the same; propose your reform as late as possible, ram it forcibly onto the agenda and railroad conference into accepting it before anyone can really consider the implications of it all.

The reason for this approach is simple; the perception is that somehow the whole of LDYS is being held back by a small group of reactionaries who are implacably opposed to any form of change and will use any form of constitutional manipulation to have their way. As a result, successive Chairs have deemed it necessary to conduct business without the involvement of even their own executives, in the hope that the reactionaries will not notice until it is too late.

So far, this approach has been pretty successful, but only because of the nature of LDYS's membership; it's easy to sell the idea that the ends justify the means to young people who are slowly discovering their political identity. In any case, the idea that procedure might exist for a reason is one you learn through bitter experience rather than teaching.

The irony, of course, is that this is a classic chicken-and-egg problem, in that the reactionaries do not foster the attitude so much as the attitude fosters the reactionarism. As Liberal Democrats, we instinctively believe in free and open debate followed by measured decision making; so long as people will insist on trying to make changes in secret and at the last minute (often using the very constitutional procedures they criticise in others), there will be people who will oppose them for the undemocratic way they have pursued things.

My point is, we cannot guarantee that proceedings inside LDYS will meet the standards of accountability and inclusiveness that the Federal, State and Local Parties should expect of us. The consequences of that could easily be disastrous, both for LDYS and for the rest of the party. Now more than ever, we need people outside LDYS to be involved and informed as the future of the organisation is thrashed out.


Simon said...

This is a really excellent piece I hope it is read by the Chair of LDYS...

The Cat said...

People are also marvellous at assuming conspiracy theories eg. "we found about it late => it must be a conspiracy to foist it upon us".

Worst example of this is the NUS - adn Lab Students are notoriously bad on this score - but clearly our party is not immune either.

My top tip (trying not to patronise but coming from a position of having practiced student politics many years ago) is to judge any proposals on their merits and not get so hung up on process.

Auberius said...

That's true to an extent, but it's our general experience that things that are submitted late were thought about late and end up being half-arsed. That leaves you in a difficult position in that the underlying idea might be good but the implementation being offered has very serious consequences, but arguing against the consequences appears to be arguing against the ideas.