Labour League of Youth. An Account of the Failure of the Labour Party to Sustain a Successful Youth Organisation

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Chronicles, for the first time, the full history of the Labour Party’s youth movement from the LOY, established 1924, to the present organisation, Young Labour, established 1994. Previously unpublished primary source material, including oral interviews, provides a narrative that illuminates the culture, organisation and political activism of the youth sections and highlights the similarities and differences between them as well as their relationship with the party leadership at local and national level.


“[The author] acknowledges . . . the eternal problem of the political disengagement of young people in general, a phenomenon exacerbated by the rise of alternative, and sometimes more hedonistic pursuits. . . In bringing her analysis up to date, she examines other forms of less partisan types of political engagement in which young people can engage and explores the activities of the Youth Parliament and other single-issue campaigning organisations. Yet she convincingly argues that this does not undermine the requirement for the Labour Party to develop its own vibrant youth movement.” – Prof. Brendan Evans, University of Huddersfield

“. . . makes a very useful contribution to the literature, and should spark others to examine the impact of a neglected but important strand within the history of the Labour party.” – Prof. Duncan Tanner, Bangor University

“ . . . a unique study . . .While many have written about the Labour Party over the years, hardly anyone has looked at its youth wing in detail.” – Prof. Stephen Fielding, University of Nottingham

Table of Contents

List of Photographs
Foreword Professor Brendan Evans
Key Dates in the History of the Labour Party’s Youth Movement
Written and oral evidence
1. Introduction
2. The Framework of Analysis
Power in the Labour Party
Structure and agency
3. A Difficult Birth
Domestic and foreign models
Labour women
The role of the Labour Party
4. What did you do in the League?
Labour Party support
Social activities
Political activities
Individual members
Youth rallies
5. The First League of Youth
The political backdrop
How old is youth?
What sort of organisation?
The impact of the Spanish Civil War
Growing party discontent
The legacy
Socialism, the Labour Party and the League of Youth in the 1930s
6. The Second League of Youth
The political context
Grass roots momentum and the party response
The second League of Youth: growth and tension
The decline of the second League of Youth: 1951-59
Social change
7. The Labour League of Youth in the West Riding of Yorkshire including a Case Study of Huddersfield
Political and economic background
Politics and personalities in the region
The birth and growth of the League in Huddersfield and the West Riding
Local party commitment to the League of Youth
The relationship between League of Youth and the local party
Links with communists
Decline of the League of Youth in Huddersfield and the West Riding
8. Young Socialists to Young Labour
The birth of the Young Socialists
Early signs of discontent
Reasons for failure
Young Labour
Views of Young Labour activists
A case study of Young Labour activism at regional level
Signs of discontent
Party response
Attempts by New Labour to appeal to youth
Single issue politics
United Kingdom Youth Parliament
The future for Young Labour: government initiatives
Young Labour initiatives
9. Conclusion

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