What’s with da Yoof?

We really need to invite some Young People to the People’s Republic to change our jaundiced minds about stuff. For we are grown old and crabby, and here followeth the evidence.

I was never into student politics, of any stripe, largely because all those that were seemed like such unconscionable wankers. Liberal Democrats have, on the whole, a lower wanker quotient than most other affiliations, but even so what strikes me most about the under-25s I have observed in this party is pretty much what struck me back at Oxnod and Cambifudge about all parties’ student activists: they’re all trying to act like fifty-five year olds. They think that’s what they “should” be doing.

Take the suits, for example. No-one in their right mind wants to wear a suit. They’re uncomfortable and worrisome and expensive to clean. And the tie is possibly the single most outlandish and ridiculous creation in the history of costumery, destined to take its place alongside five-foot-wide bustles and male tights in the Museum of Domestic What The Fuckery. What are ties for? To aid natural selection by trapping the stupid in shredding machines? Everyone looks ridiculous in a tie. Including you.

So naturally, most people who are forced regularly to wear a suit live for the moment when they can close the front door and rip the whole sorry lot off in exchange for their gardening jeans and a jumper with tea stains on it. Few people over the age of thirty who don’t have to wear a suit actively choose to do so. And you’d think that Young People, particularly those of a liberal, individualistic bent, would revel in their all-too-brief freedom from this outmoded uniform. But no, up they suit for a weekend away socialising in Yorkshire, the little perishers, presumably in the hope that party movers and shakers will “spot” them as convincing suit-wearers. Do they realise that in doing this they are condemning us all to another forty years of enslavement to the crippling social conventions of the mid-twentieth century?

But sartorial choice is only the outward demonstration of the Trouble with Da Yoof: the real problem is much more serious than that. Take a subject close to my heart, the uses of the internet in political campaigning. In the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s we surely have the most instinctive technologists, the most natural web-savants and the earliest adopters ever to surf the earth. Even I was born a few critical years too early to “get” it as instinctively as those in the next generation down do – I didn’t touch a computer until I was six, and that was at school. Now, I learn things about technology rather than absorb them. My brother is four years younger than me, not particularly a tech-nerd. But he still gets it better than I do, just because he’s that bit younger, because when he was six, we had our first computer at home. Considered alongside most of the political blogosphere – never mind the rest of the internet community – I’m one of the very rearguard early adopters. Blogged my first blogpost in 2007, sent my first Tweet in 2008, only just getting my head around what the internet is really all about.

It is natural that I am a comparative technological fuddy-duddy. I’m old. And yet. It seems I’m still way ahead of Liberal Youth. I recently had it on good authority that they actually hired in web consultants to relaunch their website at a cost of some thousands of pounds. The web architect (and party member) I was with when I heard this news nearly cried.

This is an organisation, mark you that possesses an e-mailing list of several thousands of people under 30, all of whom have chosen to be members of the nerdiest party in British politics. Many of them probably only leave their bedrooms under protest. Some of them are probably going to change the world. A goodly sprinkling of them are almost certainly better web designers than the party’s official providers. All that talent, a cornucopia of innovative potential. And Liberal Youth spent money on web consultants?

A considerable minority of the people on Liberal Youth’s emailing list could have told them the following: there are inherent weaknesses in closed source web design. Big organisations still use closed source because they need to cover their arses, and because the senior management team are of a generation that is used to buying its software from one provider, on one operating platform.

But if you’re a small, mobile organisation, particularly one which needs to husband its resources carefully, open source is a no-brainer. Forget any guff about hiring consultants being the “proper”, “grown-up” thing to do. Getting a closed source provider to build your website locks you into a relationship with that provider, technologically and financially. In fact, it’s that liberal scourge, a protected capitalist monopoly. Open source is a more robust, adaptable and flexible way of doing things, and it’s free. What seventeen-year-old liberal techie wouldn’t leap at the chance to redesign the website of a national party’s youth wing?

Now, if wrinkly old me knows this stuff, why in the name of arse doesn’t Liberal Youth? Why aren’t they the ones doing things faster, better, more coherently with the internet than we are? Why aren’t they the ones getting excited about the possibilities of internet campaigning, and how best to use it to supplement real-life campaigning? Why aren’t they building open source websites, collating campaigning materials, collecting canvassing data and writing neat little program-ettes to analyse it? Where, in short, is the action?

Nearly all the most free-thinking techies I know, the ones who are really starting to grasp the possibilities, comprehend the resources we can build with the internet, are in their thirties and forties. Now, regular citizens will know I am but a cynical friend of technology, at least for its own sake. Lynne Featherstone’s Clay Shirky quote about behaviour and not technology being the pivot of change is a splendid rule of thumb. But the whole point of having a big, varied volunteer activist base with different specialities is that individual components of the base can set out to try everything – throw every technology going at the wall, however daft, and see what sticks.

Liberal Youth ought to be the people trying everything. They’ve got the time, they’ve got the expertise among their membership, and they’ve got the opportunity, over the next twenty years, to change how the party does things, not just on the internet, but throughout the system. And they seem to be too busy playing at wearing suits.

The problem, the above-mentioned web architect theorised, is a social one. Under 25, people are still divided into tribes, the cool tribe, the ambitious tribe, the jock tribe (with apologies to Jock), and the nerdy tribe.  They haven’t learnt how to co-exist productively yet. The nerdy tribe has no official presence in Liberal Youth – the nerdy tribe is busy building AI in its bedroom. Liberal Youth seems to be made up for the most part of a single, and therefore sterile, tribe of the politically precocious. Ugh. And this is the future, is it? Sadly, on past evidence, yes.


  1. I will double what Ruaraidh said. and also, damn straight. Also, be assured some of the things you say LY should be doing with technology are being discussed in pubs ( at least in Scotland) and might actually happen one day. When we leave said pubs.

  2. Grim as the current Liberal Youth website is, it’s open source (Plone). I’m not a big fan of Plone for basic websites (the effort you need to put in to get something that looks good and works well seems much greater than for things like Drupal, TYPO3 or even Mambo/Joomla).

    Right now, the LY website has some nice graphical ideas badly executed. Take the stuff they’ve got, find someone who’ll re-do it on a more suitable CMS and then give someone the job of keeping it up to date (the other big problem).

    As for technical innovation: I agree. Try stuff, speak to the guys at MySociety for advice, see what works and what doesn’t, have some fun.

  3. Gosh, this gets worse. They paid people to provide them with an open source platform? Oh well, if that principle is established then at least the clean-up process ought, as you say, to be fairly straightforward.

    Ruaraidh and Kieran, that is excellent news, keep plotting. I cannot emphasise this enough: You Are Right And They Are Wrong! (I suppose the problem with this blogpost is that the only LY members to read it are by definition going to be the ones that already agree with me.)

  4. Yes, agreed – as I found the other weekend (as those who responded to my desperate tweet probably realised) it’s nigh on impossible to find out any info about who was who in Liberal Youth. They’re website does look pretty, and the conference one was good; but as always a website is only as good as the content on it and Liberal youth hasn’t got that right yet.

  5. I didn’t engage with student politics as I was never partisan. I did know someone in Conservative Future, so I went to their meetings. I remember sitting there,agreeing with them more & more as I got totally slaughtered🙂

    The only time I’ve ever actually done anything was when I joined in an attempt to get No Platform overturned. Hardly anyone agreed with my perspective: half of those who voted the same way as me were BNP members, & obviously they had totally different & despicable reasons.

    I remember being dismayed at utter fucking bells, none of whom have ever had a job or ever will, & who will never discover the real world, spouting Respect-esque shite & insisting that anyone who disagreed with them must be a fascist. Even worse than them was the mindless bloc vote behind them, who had never given the issue a moment’s thought.

    I did not bother to attend a union meeting after that. Looking at knobheads like Tory Bear & such, if that’s what it’s like I was better off well away from it.

    I remember at the same meeting voting to censure the government over criminalising magic mushrooms. What utter piece of shite legislation & that.

    Also I am 23🙂

  6. “The only time I’ve ever actually done anything” on campus, I’ve obviously done campaigning & what have you in the real world.

    There were a fair few BNP sympathiers at Keele, for some reason. You could get a good conversation out of half of them, wheras the other half were just dull & thick. The far right is a real presence & that in my life: I run into them quite often in pubs & often find myself arguing with them, but it never gets really nasty.

  7. I only wore a suit to the rally… and the conference session on Equity and Excellent on the Saturday (but only cos I put a speaker card in)…

    Usually I’m in scruffy jeans and tshirt. Ask Binny. Promise!

  8. @Asquith, I know. But it goes without saying that whatever rule is under discussion, you are the exception to it😀. Now, I may have asked you this before (in fact I’m fairly sure I have on FB) but have you read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers?

    Tyger, well, hm, it would have to be a damn good suit. And Chris, I reluctantly accept that councillors fall into the category of sometimes having to wear suits. Seriously though, in the longer term we need you guys to set the example and set us free of all this bollocks!

    Henry, I honestly didn’t mean it like that at all. I was using sub as a literal synonym for under, as I am wont to do. I am going to change it though, as the last thing I want is to draw fire on the bits I didn’t even mean to be combative!

  9. I’m not sure I agree that ties are the root of all evil, or that LY should be encouraged to be more geeky….but definitely would like to see them more politically active. Historically LDYS was responsible for creating more of the party’s policy than anyone else except the FPC, but they stopped a few years ago, as far as I could tell because they wanted to be less controversial – but all that happened was that people started saying “what’s happened to LDYS? has it collapsed?”. However maybe this is now changing – I hope so – as I think this was the first conference in a good while to have a motion submitted by LY to it.

  10. Thanks Alix!

    Jeremy, there was extensive involvement of LY in a few policy issues as you know… The amendments (which went through drafting advice etc) were not considered for debate at all at conference – they should have been, I would have preferred a debate in academies to one on faith.

    LY is just beginning to find it’s feet again in the policy debate.

  11. @Alix – nothing wrong with paying people to deliver an open source CMS.

    Just because the code’s free doesn’t mean you can create a site that looks good in all the different browsers and has all the functions you want.

    Plenty of companies are making good money doing it, and all power to them – open source is never going to succeed if people can’t earn a living from it.

    In this case, though, they don’t seem to have done a very good job. OK, you can’t blame the designers for no-one keeping the site up to date, or for the bizarre lack of content in some areas (e.g. “Executive”), but the placement of the top links (About us|People|…) doesn’t work at all.

    As you said, in the case of Liberal Youth, they should have been able to track down a supporter to do the job for free.

    But, in their defence, it can be real problem getting a volunteer to do this sort of site: it’s low on their priority and you’ve no comeback if it’s late and/or crap.

  12. “nothing wrong with paying people to deliver an open source CMS”

    There’s nothing wrong per se with paying people to deliver a closed source CMS either. It’s the context of who Liberal Youth are that makes the above an extraordinary decision. And while you’re quite right about the long-term viability of open source, that of course doesn’t mean it falls to organisations like LY to do the “right” thing by the industry until it can sustainably self-finance. That’s what big corporations with IT budgets are for.

    Re problems with volunteering – hm, yes, but you and I know of a score of people who do volunteer site building/maintenance/content provision/moderation, and do it well for the most part. Of course it’s not perfect – Lib Dem Voice is occasionally run on coal – but it’s a hell of a lot better with its imperfections than it would be if we did it “properly” with all the limitations that implies. Surely getting the right result from a bunch of volunteers is a function of good project management.

    Having said all that, clearly there are a couple of people on this very thread who could have stepped up, and/or know people who could have. I do appreciate that the search cuts both ways. Sometimes it’s no good waiting for the suits to ask you to do something😉

  13. I’m told the purpose of a tie is that a lady will straighten it for you if she likes you. Never worked for me, sniff, so clearly ties are evil…


    I think whether you have volunteers do a site, or pay for it, depends most of all on whether you have volunteers. And the biggest advantage of volunteers from within, is that they have a much better chance of understanding what it is you are really trying to do.

    You have a good point about student politics. I don’t think we help our students much by indulging them as we do, but then we – all parties and causes – are so desperate to have them at all, that we can hardly do otherwise. And if they know how desperate we are, and play the game, who can blame them.

    But I love students. I just couldn’t eat a whole one.

  14. The tyranny of the tie must be fought against!

    If the youth of today (current freshers were born in 1990 – i feel old!) want to change something in the world, why would they want to get involved with a political party (or students’ union) when they can join a single-issue pressure group or, more likely, a facebook group?

    The party should run those facebook groups and online campigns to reach out and then promote joining the party as the next obvious stage of activity.

  15. I’m afraid this reminds me of an occasion in 2005 when I had to ring up Cowley Street, for work, and ask for a list of PPCs (I’m still not sure why they’re “prospective” that close to the election – they’re just “parliamentary candidates”, surely? Anyway.). The nice lady who answered the phone asked if I could call back tomorrow, because she didn’t “use the computer”, but there would be someone in tomorrow who did.

  16. Firstly, the tie issue. Alix says “what are they for?”, but I could ask the same about my students’ massive belts that don’t support anything or the boys showing their pants. People still choose to wear them. Tie-wearing, in situations where ties are commonly worn, is a Nash equilibrium. As are other fashion items for the yoof.
    Although, having said that, though, I still count as youth, I believe. Maybe I should know better what’s with them.
    Secondly, I always knew I was a liberal, but the student politics was full of a) egos and b) oddities, so I didn’t get to heavily involved. Lib Dems were the strongest party at my uni though.
    And thirdly, on the actual important point, I’ve always thought that the Lib Dems are the best placed to take advantage of the wikinomics, Here Comes Everybody type changes going on, but I too have been frustrated by the lack of movement on that front. I think Jon Biggs has a good point about youth and politics in general. Recently, there’s been less point in having a party. Maybe changes in the current recession will change that.

  17. Joe: I tend to be a bit more physical than tie-straightening if I like a fella😉

    Possibly because I think tie-straightening is a bit patronising? I see that as a motherly action, rather than anything else. I know some boys WANT mothering, but…

    * cough *

    I’m going off topic again, aren’t I? Still, tis nice too see Alix’s rambling in the pub being turned into a coherent blog post…

  18. I only have access to one suit: my dad’s suit, which he himself never wears. At funerals, weddings etc where we are called upon to go together we either hire one or we make some excuse.

    Although I could afford a suit out of my savings, the thought of buying one is too depressing, for all the value I’d get out of one.

    I do quite like tie & collar straightening from a woman (unless it’s my mum in which case I don’t).🙂

    Re: Outliers, it is on my list of books to get hold of, which means that it’ll probably take about 90 years. As I am a completist, I often find myself getting obscure books in the belief that if I don’t I’ll miss out on some deeply significant thing which eluded the general public. This actually does happen quite often. But it means having an enormous list, especially considering the small amount of time & money I have to hand.

  19. Liberal Youth in Scotland is doing at least ok on policy formulation, we have two motions into the conference up here. One is on a definite youth issue (income guarantee for young people/students) and the other is on gay blood donation. We only reformed in October, but you can expect more of the same soon!

    Also, am I allowed to like the suit jackets at least? They have pockets and are comfortable.

  20. @JonBiggs, the party does do a lot of the Facebook/social media stuff (in fact the bloggers and the Innovations dept were, again, there ahead of Liberal Youth). It’s good as far as it goes, but the key, as you say, is translating it into meaningful real world action, i.e. joining the party or campaigning. As yet, we’ve not been able to make that connection happen.

    @Andrew Lay, I think you have it spot on. A liberal viewpoint naturally lends itself to all the wisdom of crowds stuff. We’ve really got a philosophical headstart over the other parties there. I think the aim is to pull that approach together with technology, and to be fair this is a goal that goes beyond Liberal Youth’s remit (though there’s no reason they couldn’t be spear-heading it if they wanted to).

    I’m saying “the aim” without being terribly clear about who is doing the aiming. On Saturday, this meeting that Charlotte alluded to upthread is happening. It started with Lynne Featherstone (chair of the new tech board) asking everyone to fill in a questionnaire on their technical expertise, and these people then got invited along to the meeting (in London, natch!) I might try and talk myself in, not because I have any technical expertise but in order to keep channels open between London-based techs and non-London techs.

    So far as I can gather it’s basically an official party exercise designed to kick off an upgrading process in how we do technology. How much it genuinely taps into expertise rather than hands down an agenda remains to be seen, but I have reasonably high hopes with LF involved.

    I’ll try and report back if I can.

  21. Oh, and as for the suit and tie thing, I’ve had a change of heart overnight – suits and ties are welcome here! No, the only people you need to watch out for in Liberal Youth are the people in whirly black cloaks with daggers peeping out of them. Leaking internal emails to Tory Bear, WTF?! And I thought we bloggers were supposed to be the self-important basketcases.

  22. From past experience, I would take rumours about what LY may or may not have paid for something with a pinch of salt. Chinese whispers seem to be a problem when it comes to the youth wing.

    That said, I never wore a suit as a student politician, on principle. I was always disappointed when fellow LDYS folk trussed themselves up like City of London turkeys for conference. I preferred to give speeches in t-shirt and jeans and win on our own terms.

    *That* said, a nice suit does make an attractive man even more so.

  23. I think I may have worn a tie about three times since I was elected as a councillor, and no one’s ever tried to make anything of it. I do partly wish someone would say I have to wear one ‘like everyone else does’, just so I can point out that almost half the Council doesn’t…

    I don’t mind suits, as long as they’re not cheap shiny ones, it’s just ties that I regard as utterly pointless and likely to soon go the way of hats.

    I was involved in my SU at Uni, but it was pretty much non-partisan (except for the Trots) and the tendrils of LDYS didn’t really reach as far as Swansea, anyway. I did once see someone at a NUS Wales conference wearing a Star Trek costume, but never a suit.

  24. A tie was a social caste indicator – and often still is.
    you have the delusion that youf matters.
    real people with real money dress in a sophisticated manner to seperate themselves from the hoi poloi.
    Having been alive for three quaters of a century I can see that all youf has is vanity.

  25. Alix: I asked Sara if she had more details on the new website, and while she accepted that she wasn’t up on the technical side of things, I did learn a couple of things.

    1) The new website is based on Drupal
    2) Total cost around £3250

    Don’t get me started on the prices people can charge for web and template design… it makes me sick, especially since it doesn’t take all that much effort. But is the idea that web consultants are fleecing the Lib Dems anything new? Tim Prater of 90s LDYS fame now is half of Prater Raines who charge individual parties £17 a month to run and maintain their website templates. Nick Clegg got consultants in to give him a Joomla! based site (which I’m now using to build Liberal Youth Bradford’s new site).

    I accept that some form of CMS is going to be needed to future proof LY websites once enthusiasts and maintainers move on. I’m not familiar with the method used by Exonetric for the 2005-2007 LDYS site (http://web.archive.org/web/20070625155342rn_1/www.ldys.org.uk/web/) but at least it was clean and functional.

    Here’s hoping Liberal Youth’s Drupal site is something we can all be proud of.

  26. Drupal is awesome. Good choice.

    £3250 for the templates and stuff is a bit expensive. (Full disclosure: I did a similar thing for the Scottish party site (Drupal-based) a few years ago, but charged ~£1200, which really was just covering costs.)

    I’m kicking myself a bit for not following through on a plan I had to develop a bunch of Lib Dem style Drupal themes which would be open source and available for anyone in the party to use (that said, Prater Raines seemed to have the market sewn up and there hardly seemed to be a point; perhaps I misjudged that).

  27. Rob: Prater Raines might have the market sewn up, and I know a lot of people who think highly of Tim Prater as a person, but their product is RUBBISH. I think you did misjudge the market.

  28. To be fair to Prater Raines, when they started up there probably wasn’t anything like joomla, and their product was great quality and value compared to the competition.

    Today it is rubbish, and I hope they are spending all that revenue on making something brilliant, not just milking.

  29. Jennie @43 wrote:

    I think you did misjudge the market.

    If so, I wasn’t the only one.

    Having said that, I’m not entirely convinced that it’s easy/possible to do a better job than PR do, even given their budget (which must be fairly substantial; I dimly recall them saying that they have in excess of 200 Lib Dem sites in operation, and that was three years ago, so it’s reasonable to assume that their budget across all sites is considerably over £40,000 per year). The main problem is support, which requires full time staff who can dedicate themselves to responding to queries from the people running the local sites. Web agencies typically get their in-house developers to do this, so it’s normally fairly efficient and profitable, but it does represent a claim against their time and effort to resolve any problems that people might have. This is a problem that the “just use open source!” approach doesn’t have an easy answer to.

    It’s important to distinguish here that “open source” is primarily “free as in speech” rather than “free as in beer”, although it is also the latter. In practical terms, an open source solution isn’t always cheapest if you have to pay for the labour of the person who sets it up. Paying for a one-off installation and maintenance of an open source site is almost certainly more expensive than going to the closed-source, proprietary provider who can lower costs down to £200/year by virtue of economies of scale. Open source is a fantastic principle, but it doesn’t necessarily solve every problem.

    That said, if there’s pent-up demand for a better solution than the current status quo, it’s likely that an “open source plus affordable support” model is the only way of doing any better. For my part, I’d be glad to contribute some Drupal expertise on an unpaid basis, and develop some themes/templates for Lib Dem sites if that’s something that people want.

    Nigel Ashton @ 41 wrote:

    I’ve just a had a look at Liberal Youth’s website and it’s crap. It breaks just about every single one of the W3C accessibility guidelines, which is disgraceful for a supposed Liberal organisation

    All true, but I can’t let this pass without mentioning that formal compliance with WCAG or any other similar standard is a poor measure of a site’s effectiveness. The LY site does at least get one thing right: there is a prominent box into which people can enter their email address and name, with a suitable call to action telling them to do it. Even though the site gets a hell of a lot wrong, getting that one thing right probably outweighs, in a purely ruthless calculation, the fact that it might not meet accessibility criteria.

  30. @Robson Brown: Paying around £3k for a decent website may be quite reasonable. My web developer colleagues have done some for less, some for quite a bit more, depending on what you want to do with it.

    I’d normally expect a basic customised template with no bespoke graphics to cost around £1000. As soon as you want something a bit special, or you want a graphics designer to get it looking a bit special, it starts adding a lot to the price.

    It’s not a rip off – it’s just how much a company has to charge to make a sensible profit.

    Drupal’s a decent CMS so I’ll wait and see what the new site looks like.

  31. Great piece, though it’s nothing that hasn’t been said before on the forums many many times. As an outsider (Joe Bloggs member), Liberal Youth appears to be run be people ‘playing’ politics whilst being totally hamstrung by execs, committees & antiquated decision making structures. The failure to engage the membership & set up even the most basic decent free site is indicative of a structure & attitude that’s all wrong.

    You know what the LY exec members said to the idea of the exec having a shared Twitter? “But that’s the work of VC coms! What if someone says something bad?!”. Or to send out an email to the membership of the forum that the site was back up? “but we can’t do that without exec approval!”. Or how’s about collective blogging on the main site, everyone within a position of ‘power’, and the membership at large, having the ability to submit content (web 3.0 ‘n all that jazz), “but we’ve VC coms! The membership can’t be trusted!”.

    These calls will, and always have, fallen on deaf ears, those in charge have no understanding of the ways of the web – and are blind to those pointing out the obvious.

    The organisation is a mess, from top to bottom.

  32. Costigan @ 47:

    I’d normally expect a basic customised template with no bespoke graphics to cost around £1000. As soon as you want something a bit special, or you want a graphics designer to get it looking a bit special, it starts adding a lot to the price.

    All true, but design (as opposed to support) is generally a one-off cost and is very well-suited to getting volunteers to do it for free. I can’t believe that LY does not possess some talented designers who could have done just as good a job, but would have happily done it for free because a) it helps the party and b) when you’re starting out, having something like that in your portfolio can be worth more than the amount you might have been paid to do it.

    Joe Bloggs:

    Liberal Youth appears to be run be people ‘playing’ politics whilst being totally hamstrung by execs, committees & antiquated decision making structures

    This is quite saddening. As an outsider to LY, it does chime with the impression I got when I was a student, though I can’t for the life of me understand why it works this way. I suspect, if I may be permitted to employ some amateur psychology, that the problem stems from the fact that this is the first time that any of these people have been put in charge of anything terribly important, and they’re determined not to screw it up, hence the religious observance of Proper Procedure in all things. It’s only once you get a bit older (mid-twenties for me) that you realise that screwing things up is the only way to learn, and that nobody will remember the terrible incident of the off-message email or embarassing Tweet anyway.

    I’m basically repeating what Alix said in her original post: it would be great to see LY being less risk-averse and more willing to do things differently, engaging with their own members who might have crazy ideas. The horrible irony is that the older members of the party really want to see the youth wing doing the kind of innovation that they themselves feel constrained from doing, whilst the youth wing feels that it has to emulate the risk-aversion of their older colleagues. If LY want to impress everyone else, the best way to do it would be to throw out the rule-book.

  33. There are precious few suits in Liberal Youth, not too much bureacratic malingering and all too much plain laziness. There are also far less geeks than one might think- at least ones willing to overhaul the website. The last one who did created the present one.

    I think that these answers are all a little simple. The simple reason is that we have had Chairs who have done little…

  34. Simon, I don’t know much about how LY works but there seems to me to be an alarmingly flawed assumption in what you say.

    “The simple reason is that we have had Chairs who have done little…”

    If you’ve got an organisation that is wholly reliant on the actions of one person to get anything at all done, you’ve not got a political grassroots organisation, have you?

    As to geeks, look up-thread and also at my last para. You might need to dig these people out of the woodwork/pub, or at least give them a flat enough and non-hierarchical enough structure to tempt them out. In my humble experience, geeks tend to hate hierarchy and bureaucracy and see it as an obstacle, probably because on the internet that’s exactly what it is.

  35. is there somewhere I can get clued in to what’s going on with Liberal Youth? I’ve seen various tangential references to some sort of bitter internicine conflict taking place within their ranks at the moment but I’ve no idea of the details behind it. It’s most frustrating.

    1. Actually, I had no idea of these shenanigans when I wrote the post. I had noted the nasty heckle for Elaine Bagshaw at conference but didn’t connect it with the various thoughts rattling around my head. Wot timing!

      It’s turned into a wider discussion about the future of the organisation over on LDV, but I’m really pleased with the way this thread has developed specifically on the online campaigning stuff (well done! have a cup of tea!) A lot of valuable shades of meaning have been added to my original rant.

    1. Ah I see. Now I care even less. But I am glad that it appears to be mostly or all rumour.

      We had Elaine and various other LY campaigning for us in Sheffield last year when we took control. Not met the other one.

  36. Alix,
    I think that there isn’t a grass roots movement to tap- yet. We need an effective organisation to recruit these people and mould them into a fighting force. The way to do that is to start some kick-ass campaigns that matter to people who might become future activists. There’s so much to get people engaged: child poverty, genocide, nuclear proliferation etc. But our campaigns are half-hearted and announced but not created… It isn’t up to the Chair to do everything, but it is up to him or her to project manage their exec to do stuff, bring people in to the organisation’s activities and make LY’s 2 main campaigns as high profile as possible….

    I think that you are right about the geeks… I cast around for a website for the Darfur campaign for quite some time by asking on the forums, sending an email to members, chasing up recommendations…. nada. As far as I can see, most of these amateur programmers seem to bemoan others’ efforts more than volunteer themselves. Hence rather than casting about wildly, eventually you have to pay for something. It wasn’t my decision, I have no idea about the costing of it, but waiting for a new (decent) website is like waiting for Godot.

  37. Jon Biggs

    If the youth of today (current freshers were born in 1990 – i feel old!) want to change something in the world, why would they want to get involved with a political party (or students’ union) when they can join a single-issue pressure group or, more likely, a facebook group?

    Why would anyone want to join a group which exists to try and change politicians’ minds rather than one which takes the more direct route of changing the politicians?

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