The Labour Party began to recruit individual members in 1918, and youth sections appeared in a handful of divisional party organisations soon afterwards. But it was not until 1924 that the National Executive Committee formalised their existence and established a Labour Party League of Youth to act as a national co-ordinating body – albeit one with strictly limited representation and voice within the party’s structures.
The date of the badge shown here is not known, but the design strongly suggests a fairly early date in the Labour League of Youth’s existence. Once adopted, it appears to have remained unchanged until the organisation was disbanded in the wake of the 1959 general election. Manufactured by the well-known badge maker Thomas Fattorini, the red, white and green-enamelled badge depicts two figures raising a scarlet standard on a grassy hill, above the name of the organisation.
In fact, the Labour League of Youth enjoyed two periods of existence: first from 1924 until in 1938 its national chair, Ted (later Lord) Willis, led a faction around the Advance! newspaper out of the Labour Party and into the Young Communist League, with all activity formally suspended for the duration of the second world war; and subsequently from 1946 until, with youth membership in long-term decline, it was finally wound up in 1959.
Despite the almost total disconnect between the two periods of activity, the image used in the badge appears to have survived in only slightly modified form. The People’s History Museum now holds what is believed to have been the Labour League of Youth’s national banner, tentatively dated to the post-war period. It features a redrawn version of the badge at its centre. There is in this later version no green and pleasant land to set the scene and the two figures’ clothing has been updated: the woman on the right wearing shorts rather than a skirt, and the male figure on the left now standing upright.
Relatively little work has been done specifically on the Labour Party League of Youth, but there are useful histories of the organisation by Dr Michelle Webb in her 2007 PhD thesis at the University of Huddersfield and subsequent book The Labour League of Youth: An Account of the Failure of the Labour Party to Sustain a Successful Youth Organisation.