As a young person in politics myself, it was great to hear Jess’ passion for getting more young people involved in the Labour Party and hearing first hand ideas Jess has planned if she wins the election, to ensure the youth wing of the Labour Party reaches out to as many young people as possible.
I started the interview by asking Jess if she could tell us a little about herself. She informed me she currently lives in Norwich and has been a youth worker for 5 years. The role of youth worker has enabled Jess to support young people with mental health, more recently she has used her role to focus on political education. In addition to her role as a youth worker, Jess is also a councillor.
Her history in the Labour Party started when she joined at the age of 16, when Ed Miliband was leader and her reason for joining was based on the influence of her parents being made redundant, this made Jess upset and this led her to wanting to join a party that worked for the people.
Jess’ determination to improve the Labour Party has placed her in the role of vice chair of Young Labour, but wants to be able to do more for young people which is why she is running for chair.
To get to know Jess and her politics a little bit more, we discussed her experience within the Labour Party. She told me that a year after joining, she began attending CLP meetings. Jess “felt the impact of being a young person in politics, some people were dismissive of my opinions because they felt like I was ‘too young’ others however were more excited by my presence and immediately gave me tasks such as running the social media, as a way to “tick a box.”
Originally from Kings Lynn, Jess was made the women's officer. In this role, Jess wanted to offer a less formal space for members to get involved and she did this successfully. Two of the things Jess is most proud of is the Women's Arts Performance Evening and Sleep-out. The Sleep-out was to help a charity to raise money, that was successful and for the members who took part, it boosted their enthusiasm with getting involved in Young Labour. This made Jess incredibly proud because one of her key motivations as Eastern Representative was to “get the most out of the young members.”
Jess is driven by bringing people along which can be seen in her role as Eastern Representative and has used this role to visit every active Young Labour group - that she has been able to get the contact information for. The reason for this is so Young Labour members know a familiar face if something goes wrong, or they need to talk to someone about a safeguarding issue - this is where Jess’s experience as a Youth Worker comes in handy. Being a representative also means she sits on the National Committee - in recent times there has been a push back from the national party against the youth wing but Jess is determined to get the most out of young members.
Having found out more about Jess’ experience in the Labour Party, the focus shifted to what Jess’ three main policies if she was to be elected as Young Labour Chair, after a long pause she told me her priorities would be:
- Movements for change
Defending the rights of people who are currently under attack from the current government, from the Black Lives Matter movement to transgender people.
- Socialism for the future
- Representation for Young Workers
It would have been wrong to conduct the interview and not acknowledge the crushing defeat for the Labour Party in the 2019 General Election, and the measures Jess would put in place having learnt from past mistakes. The main goal of Jess’ leadership would be to rebuild the Youth Wing because the time is right to increase enthusiasm and deliver political education, she understands that it will be an uphill struggle, but Young Labour can’t give up because people depend on them, to give them an option of who to vote for in an election.
Over the next few years, Jess also believes the Youth Wing has a role to play, especially in ensuring social movements stay active, because they do bring about change. A key point highlighted by Jess is the role Black Lives Matter has played in 2020. Additionally, Jess believes that by keeping socialist policies in the Youth Wing, it means people in society can be looked after, which is one of the reasons why Jess originally joined the Labour Party at the age of 16. As we, as a society soldier on during the Coronavirus Pandemic, Jess is concerned about the impact the lifting of the eviction ban will have, “with lots of people out of work, it's a harsh reality that lots of people are going to be struggling to not only get back into work, but also keeping a roof over the heads - especially for families.”
With Jess as Chair of Young Labour, she will be putting pressure on local councils to ensure people are protected. Another reason why this is so important is because “we know councils are going to be stretched financially” however Jess raised the concern during the interview that “public services work for the public and not profit, after years of Tory Austerity, there is hardly anything left to cut.”
Jess’ final statement to voters in the upcoming election is as follows:
“We need to look at young voters because they have really connected with the Labour Party, they are the party which holds the values of young people and it is important that the Party does not take young people for granted. As Chair of Young Labour, I will ensure Young Labour is visible, that anyone can approach us because it is a home. Labour is the party for upholding the rights of groups of people under attack: the Labour Party are the opposition, and Jess gave me the example that the rights of Transgender people are under attack - and the Party cant avoid conflict with the Government. Unlike the Tory Party, the Labour Party is funded by people and workers not billionaires.
Having spent years organising Young Labour events, organising campaigning events in every election. As a Councillor and Youth Worker I have seen issues from every angle: mental health, student debt, housing, jobs. The fight for Young Labour is a fight for socialism, autonomy, resources. To deliver change, and Young Labour have the potential to do that and more.”
To find out more about the campaign, here is Jess' main campaign video.