READING ABOUT RUTH

At Compass Youth, we were very involved in campaigning in the London elections. Everyone talked about how "it was the doughnut strategy wot won it" for Boris, in other words targetting the outer suburbs. We thought we go even further and reach out to Reading, where there's a resurgence going on. Meet Ruth, Chair of Reading University Labour Club.

Do you want to share your experience of being involved in campaigning, your thoughts on an issue that matters to you? Get in touch at noel.hatch1@gmail.com

Why did you get involved in Reading University Labour Club?

I’ve been involved in local politics my whole life and when I went to university I was keen to take this further and become active in Reading. I feel that it is very important to be active in the community, to take an interest in what’s going on around you.

Why did you want to set it up?

When I found that Reading didn’t have a Labour Club I felt very strongly that it was worth trying to set one up. Walking around the Freshers’ Fayre in my first year I saw the Conservative Club and Liberal Democrat Club and felt that there must other students who, like me, didn’t have their political views represented in the University.

How did you become Chair?

I only really became chair of the club by default. Throughout my first and second years at Reading there was just not enough interest for a Labour Club, but luckily our stall at the Freshers’ Fayre in my third year drew a number of interested people. I was determined to keep these people together, to not let them lose interest; particularly so that once I was gone there would be a strong core of young students who wanted to continue with the club. I had a lot of support from Martin Salter, MP for Reading West, his constituency staff, and local councillors and activists. I hope I’ve brought together some students who are passionate about democracy and social justice and want to see the club grow further.

What are your responsibilities as chair?

As the club is only just beginning I needed to make sure I kept its members together – made sure they didn’t lose interest.

"One member had always been interested in political issues, but had never made an allegiance to a particular party. I wanted to show him exactly why the Labour Party was worth campaigning for and what we could achieve."

I organised a trip to the Houses of Parliament and coordinated with the local party for the club to attend dinners with Harriet Harman and Hilary Benn.

How do you help young people get better involved in what you do?

I think a lot of this is about awareness.

"Anyone can tell you that political involvement is decreasing amongst young people and apathy has never been more popular.One of the main reasons for this is that people, particularly students and young people, are just not aware of what is going on in their communities. It is not that they don’t want to be involved, they just need the time taken to show them why local politics is important – and also that it’s not as boring as they think!"

By organising high profile events at a university, we can show them that getting involved is not as onerous as they think, and actually take up issues that they are probably already passionate about and just don’t know what they can do to fight their corner. Student politics can give them a forum to develop this.

What in your daily life makes you feel the most reassured or optimistic about your future?

This is probably my political involvement, locally and nationally. I find myself always campaigning for one thing or the other and I really enjoy it.

"When I see what is happening around me, what is happening around all of us, there are so many people fighting for things to be better, so many people who have made things better. No matter what I do when I (finally) grow up, I know that people, including myself, as working hard to make this a more fair and equal society. "

My future, and the future of young people around me, looks very very bright.

What gives you hope for the community you live in?

The people in the community give me hope. I live in a very small village in my home town and we’ve recently started a Greening Campaign to do our part in the fight against climate change. When it all began I was amazed at the interest people showed and there are now plans underway for our first stage of action. The campaign involved all different kinds of people and is not a political campaign at all.

"It’s about our community, started by our community, and it’s a sign of a community that wants to get involved and can see an area where it can make a difference and is determined to do so."

What would you change to improve the quality of everyday life of yourself, your friends/family and your neighbourhood?

I would really like to bring back some play areas for young children into my village. There used to be an area for this by a recreation ground, and later a basketball hoop was added. Unfortunately vandalism and other factors have meant that they have had to be removed. It is sad and there is now nowhere to take young children to play.

What does being "born free and equal" mean to you?

To me this is just a fact. We are all born free and equal - it’s a shame that it even needs to be said, to be campaigned for. But unfortunately not everyone is in favour of equality and many people are not treated as if they are free and equal.

What is your first political memory?

I can thank my parents for this. When I was just able to walk they sent me out to deliver leaflets in our village. I couldn’t even read the longer words on them.

Who's your role model?

I’m going to have to go with the cliché answer of my parents, I’m afraid. I’ve been incredibly lucky in the opportunities they’ve given me and politically I seem to have followed in their footsteps. I owe them a lot and look up to them both enormously.

What's your favourite activity outside of politics?

Just the usual, really – spending time with friends and family, generally behaving like a student. I’m a big football fan, as well, so I like to get to as many games as I can each season.

What is the issue or campaign that matters most to you?

"It’s hard to pick out just one, there is a myriad of campaigns that are worth fighting for – some winnable and some not, but all still worth fighting for. I think social justice, an issue which I believe the Labour Party still has at its heart, is a crucial fight, both domestically and worldwide. We have still not done enough to bring equality into the most deprived areas of the country."

What would you recommend to people who would be keen to start up their labour club?

Get a stall at your Freshers’ Fayre. This is the optimum time to recruit potential members and it’s very easy to book a stall – just contact you Students’ Union. Try to have something to offer on the day – a drinks event with a local MP or councillor, or a trip to Westminster (though the latter will need arranging a while in advance). If there is a Labour MP nearby make sure to contact them – they can give you lots of support and will almost certainly be keen to see a Labour Club at their local university.

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