According to our own constitution, “the Young Greens aim to encourage young people to become active in politics and within the Green Party of England and Wales”. Other sections state our aim to “secure a society in which all can participate equally”. Whilst these are brilliant aims to have at the core, I cannot help but feel that the Young Greens have lost sight of their overall aim for equality and inclusion.
In the two years that I have been a member of both the Green Party of England and Wales, and its youth-wing, I have lost count of the number of times I have witnessed or been informed of cliques operating within the leadership of the organisation and it always appears to rear its ugly head during election season. The Young Greens elections have just finished and as the dust settles, we are left with a new Executive Committee (EC) who have vaguely pledge to ‘forge better relationships with members’ and ‘offer more support for grassroots actions’.
This year has been a particularly hard one for the Greens, with a disappointing election result that some have dubbed as the end of the Green surge. With many members flocking to Corbyn’s Labour, the Greens are under pressure to re-evaluate their current strategy in order to stand out in the extremely competitive political market. One key area that is being repeatedly overlooked is within our student population. With Corbyn pledging to eliminate tuition fees, the Greens need to be much more creative and vocal in order to win back student support.
One of the keys ways to engage with students is through the form of student groups and societies. Green student groups are popping up at sixth forms and universities across the country and these are great ways of mobilising groups of young people to campaign on issues at the heart of both local and Green politics. However, the inaccessibility of Green politics to students is extremely off-putting and is an issue that is continuing to plague the progression of the Young Greens. Campaigns and events, such as the recent ‘Save the Bees’ campaign are incredible in terms of environmental justice, but they reinforce the connotations that the Green Party is a space which appeals to middle-class white people rather than the working class masses and BME members.
The Young Greens ‘People Not Numbers’ campaign is one that received an enormous amount of interest at our Fresher’s Fair this year. People were regularly asking questions about the campaign and its increased relevance to current society. With QMSU winning the NUS Best Campaign Award for their ‘Freeze Our Fees’ campaign, the topic of fee hikes is always at the forefront of student’s minds on campus. The fact that QMUL did not agree to freeze international students’ fees is also a discriminatory slap around the face for all of our international students, especially considering the fact that Queen Mary claims to pride itself on its outstanding number of international students and its outreach programs.
However, the Fresher’s materials sent to us by the Young Green HQ contained only posters advertising the campaign with little instruction or direction given to us. Young Greens really need to start focusing on creating and supporting grassroots campaigns that are loud and long-lasting and are more than just a poster stating an aim. They must be enabling and supportive to student groups allowing them to be able to demand that international students receive the same rights as home students, to insist that the racist and Islamophobic Prevent strategy has no place in our educational institutions within the UK and to recognise a need for tailoring Young Greens accessibility to those who are the most disadvantaged within their university settings.
It is about time that the Young Greens, as a group, eliminated the intimidating and childish clique façade and began to properly focus on getting the most potential out of its membership. The factionalism that is dominating Young Labour is likely to lead to a chaotic and confusing movement which we cannot mirror: just look at the divisions within the NUS which have been caused by senior Young Labour member’s disagreements over Free Education! Young Greens members are incredibly politically-minded, creative and hard-working individuals, who, with the right leadership and direction, could become a tremendous political force within UK politics. On the Young Greens website, it states; “we believe that our political system must be changed from the inside as well as by wider society”. We’re ready for a national organisation that empowers and inspires its members, which fights full-heartedly and relentlessly for social and environmental justice and is accessible to all, and doesn’t embrace exclusionary cliques as we have seen previously!