Josephine Harmon and Finley Harnett, Co-Chairs of the newly-founded London Young Fabians, outline their vision for the group
Young Londoners have good reason to be hacked off. Soaring housing costs, high rents, job insecurity, stagnant wage growth, underfunded and understaffed mental health services. These are just some of the challenges young people in the capital face. Such difficulties have, to varying degrees, been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, yet the Government appears indifferent to generational and social inequalities and is actively worsening them. Young workers are set to be disproportionately hammered by the Conservatives’ hike on national insurance, and now it is reported the Government will be lowering the student loan repayment threshold‒ another blow to young Londoners’ finances.
The Conservative Government, diverted by other priorities, has chosen to level down on young Londoners, their ambitions and aspirations. For over eleven years, older homeowners have been the primary beneficiaries of Tory policy. The onus is therefore on the Labour Party to transcend this generational divide and, in doing so, champion young people, ensuring they can reach their full potential in London, the world’s greatest city to grow up in.
That’s why we ran as Co-Chairs of London Young Fabians, the latest in a series of Young Fabians national and regional groups to be established. Under our leadership, we want London Young Fabians to be at the forefront of developing and pushing for progressive solutions to these crises, solutions that are credible, that can appeal to our peers. We hope to work with Labour Councillors, Assembly Members, Members of Parliament and colleagues in sister parties, as well as think tanks, NGOs and grassroots movements, to explore new and innovative ideas to address the most pressing policy challenges facing our generation.
The life of the London Young Fabians will emphasise dialogue, social events and political engagement regionally and nationally. Our programme of activities will include:
- Events to engage a diverse range of Londoners of all backgrounds, from all corners of the city. These will include speaker events featuring external guests, but we also want to hear from our members and draw upon their expertise and experiences.
- Producing articles to contribute to the flow of ideas within the Fabians, in which London can play a crucial role.
- Social activities in order to network and make friends, as well as stakeholder engagement.
We want the London Young Fabians to be a forum in which local people across sectors have a voice, including European and international Londoners. We hope the group can act as a hub for young Londoners to reconnect as we skid towards the end of the pandemic.
Our policy priorities include those issues we’ve highlighted as key concerns for young Londoners: the pandemic’s impact on living conditions and mental health; increasing rental costs, with 40% of millennials’ earnings forked out to cover it, the most of any European country according to the National Housing Federation; wages that do not keep pace with inflation; struggling health and social care services; a minimum and living wage in need of updating; homelessness increasing 52% since 2010 and the difficulties created by Boris Johnson’s wafer-thin Brexit deal to London’s citizens and businesses.
That’s why we’re interested in exploring a range of potential policy solutions, including rent caps and price controls, Universal Basic Income (UBI), an increase to the living wage, better educational and future industries investment and generational justice. Our vision is of an international, modern Britain with a Labour movement that returns to its hailed tradition of winning big election majorities to make innovative policy reforms.
The group will also explore ways of increasing youth engagement in Labour Party activism, particularly in marginal seats held by Conservative MPs, from Chingford and Woodford Green in the northeast to the Prime Minister’s very own Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency out west. Inspiring disillusioned young people with a bold, aspirational policy platform will be key to winning these parts of London at the next general election but Labour will also have to hold onto its existing coalition of socially-liberal, cosmopolitan young Londoners. As James Sloam and Matt Henn of the London School of Economics identify in relation to the 2019 general election result, “a good proportion of Labour’s youth support has been transferred along cosmopolitan cleavages to the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party”, a trend that, worryingly, appeared to continue at the local elections in May.
Though policy will be our focus in the London Young Fabians, these electoral challenges will be central to our discussions. We will not lose sight of the means by which our movement can implement policies to transform the lives of young Londoners. That is to say, by winning elections, at local, regional and national levels.
As an important region with plenty to say about national policy, we hope to be a hub for important conversations and contribute to the Fabians’ vital work in reaching out to a wider membership on these issues.
So if you’re aged under 31, live in London, and share our Fabian values, join us. Our next meeting will be on the 6th of December online, and all are welcome to join. Together, let us work towards building a better future for young Londoners.
If you’re a Young Fabian member based in London, you would be more than welcome to get involved in the group. Please click here to RSVP for our next online meeting on Monday the 6th of December 2021.
Josephine Harmon and Finley Harnett are Co-Chairs of London Young Fabians
Josephine Harmon is the Founder and Co-Chair of the London Young Fabians. She is a Political Science researcher at University College London and has taught at King’s College London, UCL, the University of Bath and the University of Exeter. She previously worked for an MP, in Parliament, and in political research for the Remain Campaign, as well as contributing research and writing to think tanks and NGOs including the UK in a Changing Europe. In 2018 she was a visiting fellow at Yale University and was awarded the 2020 Richard E. Neustadt Paper Prize for her research on interest groups. She is currently producing a report on millennial living standards in partnership with a UK NGO. She is a passionate Labour member and is interested in key policy areas including living standards and economic inequality.
Finley Harnett is Co-Chair of London Young Fabians. He works as a Communications Officer & Researcher for a Labour MP, and he's also Chair of Harrow West Young Labour. Finley can be found on Twitter at @HarnettFinley.