After close to two years of planning, we have just finished Day 1 of the first Fabian Society delegation to China for over three decades. After 13 hours, three meetings, one lecture and countless cups of coffee, we have developed and challenged our preconceived perspectives, but for now have only more questions rather than answers.
Lu Mai, Secretary General of the China Development Research Foundation and his senior team hosted our first discussion, providing a Chinese perspective on a number of key developments – including demographic challenges, the evolution of the one child policy, improving early childhood development, and the choice faced by China in balancing state and private contributions to social protection.
This was followed by an afternoon discussion on soft power and the UK-China relationship hosted by Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy and led by British Council China Director Carma Elliot, before a wide-ranging discussion with Christoph Pohlmann, from the Beijing outpost of FES, the German thinktank affiliated to the Social Democratic Party. We rounded off the day by joining a roomful of Chinese and international to hear the Dutch journalist Fokke Obemma talk about the lessons from his new book China and the West.
As we head tomorrow into the first of two days of conversations with students and academics at the China Youth University of Political Sciences, there are three questions I will be considering carefully.
Firstly – despite very different national contexts and political systems, what can each country learn from each other about tackling common challenges? As we began to explore some of the big challenges facing China we soon began to uncover more areas of common interest than previously appreciated. ‘Boosting productivity’ was quickly cited as a key imperative by the CDRF as a response to the China’s demographic challenge – a familiar refrain to anyone who follows the policy debate in the UK.
Secondly, how do we build meaningful relationships with our Chinese contemporaries? Without exception, everyone we spoke to stressed the necessity and importance of building people to people relationships if we are to have any chance of having meaningful dialogue, influence (particularly in areas where we fundamentally disagree) or even insight.
Thirdly, how do China and the UK perceive each other, how accurate are those perceptions, and how much does this matter? Several audience members at Fokke Obemma’s lecture criticised the sensationalisation of media reportage of China, whilst Obemma himself positions his book as at attempt to provide a more balanced analysis than the likes of Martin Jacques’ When China Rules the World.
Hopefully, other members of the delegation will be able to share some insights on these questions and others as the week progresses. For updates from the delegation follow #YFChina.
Written by Joel Mullan, Young Fabians Education Network Chair.
For more information about the Young Fabians China Delegation 2015 and latest updates, follow @youngfabians on twitter.
Last Sunday at Conference, the Young Fabians launched their “Future of the Labour Party” pamphlet – the culmination of a summer long listening campaign, which reached out to hundreds of Young Fabians members and young people around the country.
The pamphlet issues 5 challenges to the Party:
- Develop a new cadre of diverse leaders - The party must support leaders from all sections of society and increase diversity from the grassroots up
- Develop a compelling vision for the future of the country - We must stick to a clear and consistent message, one that can reach beyond our traditional base and be a clear alternative to the Conservatives
- Master the art of digital communication - Is the Party fully equipped to deal with the age of digital?
- Connect local activism to policy making - The Party must create mechanisms to re-connect the party leadership to the issues members care about at the grassroots
- Change the world from Opposition - We need to act now and use the powers we have from Opposition to build a better Britain now
The event showcased a number of big ideas from across Labour’s youth movement and encouraged audience members to engage with the key challenges of the pamphlet.
Ivan Lewis MP was asked to respond to the challenges. He criticised Labour’s poor record on diversity and encouraged us to think about what Britain will look like in 2020. He also inspired us with examples of when Labour had successfully changed the world from Opposition.
Steve Morrison, founder of the Use Your Voice campaign, spoke to us about increasing our agency. He used his experience to highlight the power of social media in engaging young people and the importance of connecting people from different sectors who can support each other in their goals.
Some of the big ideas pitched that were pitched by our other speakers include:
- Michael Rubin, Chair of Labour Student – Students are the future of the Labour Party. Go on to campuses and engage with students. Build national campaigns with them and give them the tools to become leaders of the future
- Beth Miller, Young Labour Women’s Officer – Parliamentary Candidates often struggle financially. They need to be supported, particularly if we want to encourage more women into the Party. We begin a consultation process which looks into options for supporting candidates financially. One option could be to pay candidates the living wage for 2 days per week then put a levy on their salary once they become MPs.
- Johnson Situ, Peckham Councillor – Politics and politicians need to originate from communities. We need to empower local wards so that we have community-based and diverse leaders and so that we are fighting on the right issues. We need to start from now to win the trust of communities.
- Josh Groves, Birmingham Labour Students Secretary & organiser for Jess Philips MP – Much of organising is boring; however we need to inspire volunteers, get them in and keep them in. We also need to really listen and understand what people really want not what we hope they want.
We then had breakout sessions to critically engage with the 5 challenges. Some of the issues that were raised include:
- Can you train someone to be a leader? How can CLPs change to encourage diversity?
- How do you respond to the increasingly fragmented nature of people’s lives and communities? How do you reach out and bring them together?
- Digital strategies need to be diverse and take advantage of different medium to meet people’s needs.
- What can we lessons can we learn about the effectiveness of community organising from the last election? Without a decent policy platform, is community organising an effective electoral strategy alone?
- It’s important to connect with the grassroots and people outside our usual comfort zone.
Now that we have issues these five challenges, the Young Fabians want to continue to develop our thinking on the Future of Labour Party.
The questions now it “What next?” How do we support the Party to take action to address these challenges for a brighter 2020.
Download the Pamphlet here: http://ow.ly/SSLpd
On 15 September 2015, the Young Fabians Education Network hosted a discussion – ‘What can we learn from other education systems?’ – with Lucy Crehan, author of the upcoming book ‘Cleverlands: Inside the World’s Best Classrooms’. The event sought to learn from Lucy her findings from the time she had spent immersed in the education systems of Finland, Canada, Japan, Shanghai and Singapore, countries whose students consistently perform highly in the PISA mathematics, science and reading tests.
Chaired by Secretary Jun Bo (Jumbo) Chan, the event was packed with new and old Young Fabians from students to teachers and policy researchers. Anchored by a communicative, open and safe space, the diverse views and experiences apparent in the room informed a highly interactive discussion. Questions ranged from those which focused on classroom practices and student behaviours in different countries, to those about the link between cultural expectations and educational attainment. What was obvious was that there were many differences and overlaps amongst the education systems which Lucy had visited. Some were highly homogenous (Japan) whilst others were much more multicultural (Singapore). Singaporean teachers have a highly structured career ladder whereas Finnish teachers do not. Like their Japanese counterparts, Singaporean students invested a lot of time in extracurricular activities.
Nevertheless, some common features of these high performing education systems were that of i) lack of high-stakes accountability, ii) supportive rather than punitive assessment of teachers and iii) high-quality teacher training, which included subject-specific pedagogy. Some of these policies were contrasted to those promoted by the 2010 White Paper ‘The Importance of Teaching’, which was unveiled by Michael Gove, the previous Secretary of State for Education. Though hesitant to suggest any particular reforms to the English state education system, Lucy pointed out that other countries had education systems which were more independent of the day-to-day operations of political governments. Combined with evidence-based policies, this led to slower but more efficacious policymaking.
If you want to know more how you can contribute to our Network – which is completely member-led and bottom-up – please do drop our Secretary Jun Bo (Jumbo) Chan an email via [email protected]
This week Executive Member Jessica Toale took part in the 5th Annual UK-China Young Leaders Roundtable. Attended by MPs, Officials, and leaders in academia and business, this event forms part of the FCO’s 'People-to-People' dialogue initiative.
The roundtable was designed to foster conversation between UK and Chinese delegates on how to build partnerships for innovation and entrepreneurship. Group discussions focused on the financial and human capital challenges that present barriers to innovation and growth as well as the policy foundations that could support academic institutions, business and individuals in the UK and China to thrive.
A fascinating number of collaborative initiatives already exist between the UK and China – for example, a joint fund to support scientific research ventures – and discussion turned to what can be learned from other examples around the world e.g. the UK–Lebanon Tech Hub and joint China-German efforts to improve manufacturing processes.
One of the most interesting discussions revolved around how China’s internet economy and burgeoning logistics industry is enabling young people to set up successful e-commerce businesses in rural areas. This has the potential to spread wealth from the tier 1 and 2 cities and is a lesson to the UK on the crucial importance of efficient infrastructure in the devolution of economic power from major cities.
On Thursday morning, delegates convened at the Institute of Directors to hear from the hosts – the Great Britain-China Centre, Rt. Hon Liam Byrne MP and All-China Youth Federation Vice President Mr Zhou Chengkui – Foreign Minister Rt. Hon Hugo Swire MP and China’s highest ranking female politician Vice-Premier Lui Yandong.
Mme Lui praised efforts of young people as ambassadors for their countries and the catalyst for friendships to grow between our two countries. She said: “Young people have always been drivers and pioneers of people to people dialogue.”
She left us with three messages:
- Be Daring – Young people are leaders in innovation. Build platforms and pursue your dreams
- Learn from each other – Build bridges of friend ship between our two countries to tackle common challenges
- Look to the Future – Be defenders of world peace and work with young people in developing countries for shared prosperity.
This October, six Young Fabians members will be travelling to Beijing to explore innovative social and economic policy solutions which respond to the contemporary challenges facing both of our countries.
This roundtable revealed that that China’s society and economy are evolving and adapting at an exceptional rate and that we have a lot to learn from each other.
Pictured left to right: Mr Wu Jiasong (President, Youth Federation); Charlotte Leslie MP (MP for Bristol North West); Mr Li Xiaohua (Deputy Director General, Dept of International Research, CPC); Mr Zhou Chengkui (Vice President, All-China Youth Federation); Rt. Hon Liam Byrne MP (MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill & UK Delegation Lead); Ms Dong Xia (Deputy Secretary General, All-China Youth Federation); Jessica Toale (National Executive, Young Fabians)
On 2nd September Young Fabians met to discuss how Labour could shape health policy "from the ground up." The event was chaired by Cllr Sam Stopp, who is the Secretary of the Young Fabians Health Network. Cllr Jim Dickson (Lead Member for Health and Wellbeing in Lambeth) and Dr Martin Edobor (NHS doctor and Young Fabians Vice-Chair) were the two guest speakers.
The speakers and other attendees considered Labour's relative strength at local level (with over 7,000 councillors nationwide) in discussions about the ongoing implications of the Health and Social Care Act. It was generally agreed that Labour could have a strong voice on healthcare through local government, but that it would need to make the case for federalism more robustly than it had before.
In a lively discussion, with lots of questions from the floor, there was a general sense that Labour would need to lead the way in championing localism with regard to health in order to avoid being outflanked by initiatives such as "The Northern Powerhouse."
We are grateful to our chair, our guest speakers, and attendees for making this event a success and for teeing up future discussions about this issue.
The Fabian Society congratulates Jeremy Corbyn on a famous victory, which now gives him a mandate to test a different path for Labour. For the party to stay relevant and become electable he must seek out challenging new ideas, not hark back to the rigid certainties of the 1980s. Labour must face the future.
In a little over four months the mainstream of the Labour Party has suffered two extraordinary election defeats. In May it was rejected by the country, and today it has been spurned by its own members and supporters. All those in the Labour family who did not support Mr Corbyn must now reflect on these twin failures with humility and make a deep commitment to rebuild, reach out and reconnect.
But Mr Corbyn’s supporters should pause too, because every political movement needs a left, a middle and a right. Labour must remain a broad-church, welcoming of diverse points of view and open to everyone who is committed to a more equal Britain.
115 years ago the Fabian Society helped found the Labour Party to bring radical change to Britain. That is only possible when Labour is able to challenge the orthodoxy of the times, but also secure the democratic support of the British people and find practical answers that work. Principles are nothing without well-evidenced solutions. Ideological purity is nothing without power.
Members of the Fabian Society voted for all four Leadership candidates and we will continue to be a space for open-minded and comradely debate across the left. Our recent output contains a wealth of fresh thinking around which the whole party can unite. And today the Fabian Society launches a new programme, ‘Facing the Future’ which will help provide the ideas Labour needs for its renewal.
Through debate, publication and research we will bring together the broadest range of voices to challenge the Labour Party to do better for all those who need it most. This leadership contest has proved that the party needs a fundamental debate on its purpose, in our changed political and economic context. It must stay true to its enduring values, make itself relevant for the 2020s and broaden its appeal to people who rejected the party this year.
The Fabian Society has always been there for the Labour Party when the time has come to debate and renew. A Fabian authored the 1945 manifesto ‘let us face the future’ and the ideas of each Labour government were forged on the pages of Fabian pamphlets. Labour must face the future once again and the Fabian Society is here to make it happen.
Andrew Harrop is general secretary of the Fabian Society.
If you would like to learn more about the Society’s Facing the Future work
On Thursday, a group of Young Fabians convened with Catherine West MP to discuss the UK- China relationship.
Catherine opened her remarks by welcoming the Young Fabians upcoming delegation to China in October, saying how important it is for the UK to engage with and understand China in a meaningful way. She spent one year living in China and studied an MA in China Studies at SOAS.
She discussed three issues with which she felt it would be important for Young Fabians delegates to engage.
Firstly, she raised economics and recent volatility in Chinese markets. While this has the potential to impact UK manufacturing and financial sectors, she was confident that there will be no major economic collapse in China. Rather, it is a signal that we may need to reassess our expectation of Chinese growth rates in future.
Of particular importance to Catherine was our education market and leadership in this sector globally. With fewer Chinese students studying at Universities in the UK as a result of visa issues and competition from other English speaking markets, her worry was that our social, cultural and economic capital may be diminished in 10-15 years time when these students are influential in business, politics and society.
Secondly she raised human rights and rule of law referencing Tibet as an issues that is often high on our agenda. She encouraged delegates to find a diplomatic way to raise human rights issues during the visit.
She also mentioned China’s track record on environment and big infrastructure projects, which have often been associated with human rights abuses particularly around the relocation of communities. But Catherine mentioned that we can also learn from the Chinese particularly in terms of how they have managed to improve the environmental performance of factories and manufacturing sector.
Finally, Catherine encouraged delegates to visit the 1937 Nanjing massacre memorial to help understand the long and intertwined history of our two countries and how this continues to affect Chinese psyche and policy today.
The Young Fabians will be taking a delegation of 6 members to Beijing from 12th-16th October to explore innovative social and economic policy solutions and build relationships with other young persons groups in China. The last Young Fabians delegation to China took place in the 1980s. Both the UK and China have changed significantly since then so it will be interested to discover what major challenges the country now faces, how they are dealing with these challenges and whether there is anything the UK can learn from and apply to our own challenges.
Thank you to Catherine for sharing your insights and to the Star of Bombay for hosting us.
The Young Fabians International network held a round-table on Swedish social democracy and a steering group meeting on Saturday 29th of September to discuss their programme of events. The network is putting together a publication on the lessons they have learnt from Sweden and are in the process of organising further delegations.
The International Network provides a community for young professionals interested in international affairs. The network organises international delegations, seminars and workshops for Young Fabian members. The international network will also be hosting two fringe events at Labour party conference on Tuesday 28th of September
11:45-13:00 YF International Network: A roundtable on the future of European Social Democracy
18:30-19:30 Young Fabians International Network in partnership with IsraAID: From Emergency relief to long-term recovery and sustainable development.
If you're interested in joining the network or being added to the mailing list please E-mail LJ Davies, Chair of YFIN [email protected]
There will be further delegations to be announced in the coming months and a
Last Wednesday Peckham Councillor Johnson Situ and Jessica Toale hosted a “Future of the Labour Party” listening event at the Peckham Pelican.
The event was attended by a range of local councillors, activists and young people and provided an interesting insight into what the Party could be doing at community-level as well as national level to engage members.
The group discussed the three main questions framing the Future of the Labour Party project around Party, leaders and activist and what they can do to win in 2020.
A number of key themes emerged from the discussion:
Flattening the Party and policy making
It was felt that all too often the party does not encourage a healthy open culture of disagreement and debate. There needs to be a better way to link activism and the issues people care about at local level to influencing the policy making process. This doesn’t necessarily mean having to agree on all issues but to feel part of the process to developing solutions.
Making the party and in particular policy development less hierarchical, and more flat, would be one way to address this. In age where the public receive information from a wealth of sources, the top down approach of setting policy was deemed quite archaic. People have to feel like they are part of the decision making process to feel they have ownership over what the Party is promoting. This will help them see the results of what they are involved with and make them more confident to talk about it on the doorstep.
Clarity in communications needed
The Party needs and clear and confident vision and proposition for the next election. This means offering genuine change and a genuine alternative. It was felt very strongly that the Party should not be using Tory framing.
One group discussed a strong need to put together a review of how we currently communicate our values. Then Once a clear narrative has been agreed, in simple language which resonates with real people, it should be drip fed over the next 5 years and repeated.
There was also discussion about what the Party is offering at a more national level for voters outside of London, and particularly rural voters.
Develop a strategy for involving people
A number of tactics were discussed which have been successful in engaging members and keeping them involved. In Southwark, councillors have been diligent at calling members and introducing innovative initiatives like the Borough Conference. This however was recognised as extremely resource intensive, and there was a desire to want to involve members in more than just leafleting.
A genuine strategy for involving people is needed, particularly outside of London where membership numbers may be less, and some areas that can be developed include: recognising and harnessing the strengths of your local membership and adapting accordingly; making interventions less Party political and more local; taking more specific targeted approached; talking and calling more people.
Make politics more fun
The Party needs different voices and diversity. This require reaching out beyond the membership and engaging non-members, both young and old and urban and rural. Some ideas that were discussed where hosting monthly ‘what’s the issue’ events that discuss local issues not party politics; engaging the ‘underground’ in local areas – the artists and creatives; integrating politics and important local issues into local cultural events; taking inspiration for organisations like 38 degrees and change.org which galvanise people around political issues en masse. Essentially, this is about being able to discuss politics in a less obviously party political way.
This discussion will be fed into the final Future of the Labour Party Pamphlet, which will be launched at Labour Party Conference on Sunday 27th September at 14:15 at the Holiday Inn, Kings Road, Brighton.
This pamphlet will provide an overview of the views expressed in our online survey, at all of our listening events, and from hundreds of conversations had over the summer.
Thank you to everyone who attended and to the Peckham Pelican for hosting this exciting and informative event.
The Young Fabian International delegation met with Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven at SSU national congress in Västerås Sweden.
The delgation was led by LJ Davies, YF International Network Chair and Martin Edobor YF Vice-Chair with delegates Unsa Chaudri, Rachel Ward, Rayhan Haque and Ian Kugler.
Stefan Löfven spoke to delegates about his government's 90-day work guarantee for young people and its approach to the environment. Löfven explained that having a strong economy should not be considered a right wing policy, a strong economy should be embraced by the left, because we need a strong economy for effective public services and a strong welfare system.
Löfven went on to inspire our delegates to be internationalist as her argued that "Capital is global, Companies are global, the whole economy is global and our problems are global so we have to be global too and be unified under the flag of solidarity and peace!“
He encouraged Young Fabian delegates to be beacons of hope and pioneers, explaining that through building on the bonds the delegates have formed with the SSU they could work together to enact change throughout the world.
The Young Fabian International Network aims to influence foreign policy at home and abroad, if you wish to find out more information please contact LJ Davies [email protected]