Young Independence Chairman Rob Comley looks back at a year in which YI more than doubled its membership – and looks ahead to 2014.

2013 was a long year for Young Independence (YI), as well as myself. The year started out with YI arguably broken in two, but finishing with a united youth wing fighting for the same goal – to win the 2014 European Elections and to see Britain’s exit from the EU.

When I first became Caretaker Chairman of YI I must admit that I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had been on the council for no longer than three months when I was asked to look after the on goings, but once I had made YI ‘a little bit of Rob’ I found it difficult to part from the position and consequently ran for the official Chair position, in which I was successful in being elected.

Then started the hard work. I had three main goals – to finish my term with over 2,000 members, to expand UKIPs’ university presence and to ensure YI was accessible to all. With the YI elections fast approaching and with candidates putting their names forward from the 2nd February, I am happy to tell you that the membership to date is around 1,700 – just short of my target, but a huge increase of just under 150% increase from the 700 members we knew about at the end of 2013.

We spent a long summer preparing leaflets, shipping them off to universities and setting up UKIP societies. In the majority of universities we received a warm welcome and came out with 16 fully ratified societies and 48 others with some sort of UKIP presence – a good basis to be going on with. The most successful has to be Marc Hales’ UWE society, which I was invited to talk at in October. The society had started from scratch in September, but managed to pick up over forty members and now has a regular meeting with guest speakers – what Marc has done is truly amazing and I wish to thank him publically for all his hard work.

Making YI accessible to all has probably been the most challenging of my targets – it is next to impossible to keep everybody happy and there is always someone, somewhere who feels a little left out. However, we tried our best to spread action days and events around the country, and over the past twelve months YI have visited London, Chester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol, Great Yarmouth, Glasgow and Brussels, with opportunities to get involved in local action days and university campaigns in even more locations.

If I had to pin-point my favourite part of the year I would have to say the first annual Young Independence conference and ball back in September, with over 120 guests, the majority who had never been to a UKIP event before and some as young as fourteen. It was truly amazing to see so many young faces in one room who have had enough of the same old Conservative and Labour governments letting the youths of today down and truly believe UKIP can change their future.

Sadly, I am going to take this opportunity to say that I will not be standing for any YI positions come February – a mixture of University, work and my local 2014 council campaign have taken over my life recently and I have found less and less time to complete the day to day duties required to make the fastest growing youth wing even more successful.

But on to the future – what do I believe YI needs now? YI needs a chairman with the same passion and desire as I to make the youth wing the biggest and most productive in the country, but someone who has the time on their hands to do it all day, every day. It needs someone with new ideas to engage members, not just at election time but the whole year around. In my eyes, YI is the most modern youth wing of them all and this is what will attract young people to it – if you build it, they will come.

I have had an interesting, sometimes stressful, but always exciting year as your YI chairman. I thank you for your continued support, and here’s to 2014; the year UKIP could win the European elections and truly give hope to thousands of young people in the UK who feel the government have left them down and forgotten them.

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