Trading in weakness for anarchy

Phillip Dexter replies to the recent document of the Cope Youth Movement

Preliminary Response to the issues raised by COPE Youth Movement - Phillip Dexter

1. The manner in which the document (see here) was leaked to the media has been very unfortunate and the conduct of the leadership of the Youth Movement is very damaging for the party. Why the document could not be given to us as the leadership of the party shows the level of ill-discipline and disrespect the supporters of this document have for the leadership and for the party.

2. Having said that, the many good points that the paper makes, (incidentally, none of them are new issues), are undermined by the clearly factionalist and sectarian character of the document and its facile and unscientific analysis of the weaknesses of the party.

3. To claim that bringing some officials to work full-time at the HQ selectively criticises the officials, leaving out the fact that others also serve as MPs and MPLs, not least of the interim leader of the YM herself. If the criticism applies to some officials, it applies to all. In any case, there are not enough resources to implement this proposal and that has been the only reason for it not being implemented.

4. No analysis of the performance of the officials and staff currently at HQ has been made. There are two full-time officials and at least 6 staff employed there. Each department surely needs to be assessed.

5. The paper does not take in to account that a key base for the party should be where there are resources - Parliament. The weaknesses of the party in Parliament need to be analysed, from the slowness in recruiting and appointing staff, to the completely unworkable and inefficient deployment of MPs, to the performance of some of the MPs. Instead, the paper creates the impression that all the weaknesses in the party are concentrated in the top leadership of the party.

6. The weaknesses of the YM and its leadership are not even given mention in the document, let alone serious consideration. Since its formation the YM has been racked with problems, many of the relating to the behaviour and conduct of the interim leadership. Almost all criticisms and suggestions to remedy these problems have been met with arrogance, petulance and immaturity, rather than constructive engagement. The resignations of so many youth leaders and members is surely testament to the problems the structure has. The lack of self-criticism of the drafters of the document is breathtaking. That those who are part of the illness afflicting the party seek to suggest that they are the cure is quite ludicrous.

7. The argument that the current leadership of COPE, the only leadership elected by a conference, should stand down and be replaced by an unelected group of individuals is tantamount to dissolving the party. One cannot even begin to understand the logic or the motive for this suggestion, unless dissolution is the objective.

8. If this is the suggestion to resolve COPE's issues, surely this applies more so to the YM itself.

9. The tone of the document and the statement made to the media, accusing the leadership of the party for being agents of imperialism is one that cannot be left unchallenged. This serious charge must be proven or withdrawn with a public apology.

10. In summary, this document is populist and the serious suggestions to deal with the challenges the party faces are lost in the rhetoric. While all COPE members are entitled to their views, these views must be subjected to vigorous criticism. To substitute anarchy for the current weaknesses in the party will only increase divisions, make the party weaker and will play in to the hands of our opponents.

Phillip Dexter, MP is COPE's Head of Communications

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