Young Labour is the youth section of the UK Labour Party. Membership is automatic for Labour Party members aged 14 to 26.
It exists to involve young people in the Labour Party and ensure that the aspirations of young people are reflected in Labour's policies in power. Young Labour members are able to get involved in the Labour Party through local policy events, campaigning or by attending events and social gatherings.
Young Labour hosts an annual conference, alternating between national committee elections and policy conferences every other year. Young Labour also holds a range of additional national events, including fringe sessions at the Labour Party's annual conference.
Throughout much of the 20th century, younger members of the Labour party were represented first by the Labour League of Youth and later by the Labour Party Young Socialists. These organisations often positioned themselves on the left of the party and frequently had a difficult relationship with its leadership. The latter of these groups went into decline in the late 1980s after reforms were made to make it more manageable and closed down entirely in 1991.
In October 2017, Young Labour passed a motion at their annual conference which called for Britain to withdraw from NATO.
In May 2018, the organisation started a digital campaign against then-Labour MP Chuka Umunna after it was revealed that he employed university students to be unpaid interns. The campaign, "#PayUpChuka', led to the Labour leadership briefing the Parliamentary Labour Party that employing unpaid interns runs contrary to Labour's 2017 general election manifesto.
On 25 February 2022, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer scrapped Young Labour's annual conference in response to activists from the youth section criticising his backing for NATO during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The tweets from earlier in February condemned Starmer for his "celebrating" of closer cooperation with NATO while he was also "attacking Stop the War and other pro-peace activists." Some of the statements from Young Labour were cited as follows:
"Nato’s acts of aggression both historical and present are a threat to all of our safety"
"Stoking up tension, macho posturing & trying to 'out do' the Tories on hawkish foreign policy will only lead to further devastation, loss of life and displacement of people across the world"
It was also announced that Young Labour's funding would be cut in response to the comments, whilst its Twitter account was restricted by the party for what was described as breaches of acceptable "standards of behaviour". The move was condemned as bullying by Young Labour's elected chair Jessica Barnard, who also said it may drive young people away from Labour. An article from The Canary dubbed the move "Keir Starmer's latest authoritarian crackdown." The Labour party's shadow foreign secretaryDavid Lammy described Young Labour's views as “lazy knee-jerk” anti-Americanism and said that “They don’t speak on behalf the party."
The Young Labour National Committee acts as the executive of the organisation. It includes a chair, the National Executive Committee (NEC) youth rep, an international officer, five liberation officers, two ordinary reps, five trade union reps, three Labour Students reps, and 11 national and regional reps. In addition, the Labour Party appoints a permanent secretary to act as facilitator, National Policy Forum youth reps appoint a vice chair (policy), and the youth wings of affiliated organisations, such as the Co-operative Party and the Fabian Society, are able to appoint a representative.
Between 1991 and 2009 the Chair of Young Labour was appointed by the Labour Party. Reforms passed by the Labour Party's annual conference saw the creation of a democratically elected chair, voted for by delegates at Young Labour's national conference, to serve a two-year term. The first election took place in 2009. In late 2017 the Labour Party's NEC changed the system so that the Chair of Young Labour is elected by a one-member-one-vote ballot of young members. It was reported that over 7,000 young members voted in the 2018 election.
Delegates at Young Labour's national conference also elected the Youth Rep to sit on the Labour Party's NEC. The election operated under an electoral college, with a third of the vote for young member delegates, a third for Labour Students delegates, and a third for delegates from affiliated trade unions and socialist societies.
For the 2018 election, the system was changed, with half of the vote allocated to young members through a one-member-one-vote ballot and half allocated to block votes by affiliated trade unions and socialist societies.