Seven years ago I was pretty new to politics and was living in London for the first time. The Westminster Village can seem like a pretty intimidating and inaccessible world for newcomers, and I didn’t really know where to start. I mentioned to a friend at a party that I wanted to get more involved in left wing politics in the capital, and he immediately told me to join the Young Fabians.
The YFs proved to be a great entry-point. The frequency of events meant that I could fit being involved around a busy social life and work. The fact that there were regular social events (the boat party, the annual dinner, quiz nights) allowed me quickly to build up a network of politically-minded friends; I found that there was no better way to learn about left wing politics in the UK than to listen to well-informed peers who had been involved for longer. And by going along to policy events I got up to speed on the most current debates in British politics, often hearing from the senior politicians at the very forefront of the issues, but in an environment where I felt able to contribute, ask questions and learn.
After 3 years I was so hooked I decided to stand for the Executive Committee, first as a cooptee and then as a fully fledged exec member. Being on the Exec has given me a unique opportunity to help run Britain’s only think tank aimed specifically at young people. By working on the Exec I have had the chance to produce numerous policy pamphlets, stage events in Parliament, write blogs, interact with members of the Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet and to drive the direction of the YFs as an organisation. In the process I’ve learnt new skills, met some amazing and talented people and had the satisfaction of seeing my efforts pay off in terms of engaging ever more young people in progressive politics. In particular, through co-leading Young Fabian Women I’ve been able to work on an issue I’m truly passionate about, which is tackling the under-representation of women in public life.
None of these things would have been possible if I hadn’t taken the plunge back in 2004 and become a member. So I would definitely encourage you to sign up this week, and to encourage your friends to do so! You can sign up in a few easy steps by following this link: http://bit.ly/jointheyfs for £5 for the first six months, and if you join before the 23 September you are automatically entered into a prize draw! What’s not to like?
Claire Leigh is Treasurer for the Young Fabians. Claire was voted amongst the top 50 left-wing bloggers in the Total Politics Blog Awards 2011.