You can find the full transcript here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/student-life/12200356/Connor-Parker-Why-I-joined-the-Labour-party-and-it-has-nothing-to-do-with-Corbyn.html
A few weeks ago I met Jeremy Corbyn. In order to have the opportunity to meet the leader of the opposition I had to get up at six in the morning on Saturday and volunteer all day at the Yorkshire and Humber regional Labour conference – this was after working a 46 hour week.
I’m part of Sheffield Young Labour and it was the members of my group that provided the volunteers necessary for the conference to run smoothly, and in return we got to meet Jeremy.
He was much more impressive than the media has made him out to be. A very charismatic, engaging and caring leader, we discussed how hard it is to be a student in Britain today and different tactics we could use to grow our membership.
But if you’d have told me a year ago I’d be doing this on my precious weekends, where I’d regularly not get out of bed until two in the afternoon just to have a twenty minute chat with someone, I definitely wouldn’t have believed you.
However, something inside me has changed; I was one of the hundreds of thousands who joined the Labour Party to in order to vote in the Labour leadership election. Yet I didn’t vote for Jeremy.
Since the 2015 General Election, the Labour Party has grown so large it now has more members than all of the other major political parties – new and old – combined. The average age of a party member has fallen from 53 to 42 (the Tory average is 60) and it is people like me that have caused this demographic shift.
I’m 22 and the various different newsfeeds that inform my life constantly tell me that now is the worst time since 1945 to be young in Britain: stagnant wages, debt, unaffordable housing and a global economy that is still struggling eight years on from the crisis – all things my generation has to look forward too.
The prevalent headlines of our time espouse political dissatisfaction and the rise of anti-establishment populism across the world – but I think what has happened with Labour is different.
Did I join the Labour party in order to dismantle the establishment and start a social revolution? No. I joined because as a young person I want to see real and tangible change for young people in Britain today, and this is not something that I see the Conservatives doing for me anytime soon.
I do not believe that Jeremy Corbyn’s victory can be put down to a resurgent socialism empowered by populist frustration with the state. Although it unquestionably plays a part of the movement that saw Jeremy win his landslide victory, I do not think it makes a majority; from my experience the new members I’ve engaged with are all keen young people who want change and tend to occupy the traditional centre left ground that Labour has seen its most success.
This is a view that the chair of my Young Labour group shares; he believes the sheer shock of the defeat in May 2015 was the principle reason behind the initial surge in membership. People across the country were relying on Labour to gain power, and when we didn’t, everyone realised that they had to do something in order to make sure that we start winning again.
He, like me, is also not a hard-left Marxist. It is important for the people of Britain who are looking in at the resurgence of party membership from the outside not to write off this growth as a populist, socialist rising. Rather we should celebrate and utilise this phenomenon as a way of engaging more people in politics, especially the traditionally apathetic young.
What has happened to the Labour party is a great thing, no matter what you think of its leader, I think we are seeing the beginning of the next big political movement in Britain. A new way of thinking that engages more people in a way not seen in generations, a drive to replace the mass-austerity ideology that is going to define this decade.
I meet my group several times a month, I’ve met local leaders, MEPs and MPs and made some good friends. The majority of them are all new members under the age of 25 dedicated to making sure that all young people – whether a student or not – aren’t doomed to a life of stagnant wages, debt, unaffordable housing and a global economy that is still struggling eight years on from the crisis.