On January 22nd 2012, I was selected as the Labour Party candidate for Devonport ward in the upcoming May 2012 elections for Plymouth City Council. Devonport is an interesting ward, with many different dynamics. Devonport is also home to the Dockyard in Plymouth, and has a great historical value. However, Devonport also has high poverty rates, low educational achievement levels, low aspiration, high unemployment and a large amount of inadequate housing. In short, Devonport is a ward brimming with interesting people and a great deal of potential, but is also home to a lot of people who need help.
This week, an article was released in the Herald in Plymouth revealing the full slate of candidates that the Labour Party in Plymouth were putting forward for the election, which is just over two months away. Amongst comments about my appearance, which I don’t feel I need to justify with a response, were concerns about my age. At 18, I am the youngest candidate in the Plymouth City Council elections and, if elected, will be the youngest ever Plymouth City Councillor. It is also suggested I could be the youngest councillor, of all parties, in Devon. And?
Whilst I’m proud of the fact that I will an achievement like that, why does anybody’s age in politics have to mean anything? I have never seen my age as a barrier within the Labour Party. I see myself as equal to everyone else who campaigns for Plymouth Labour. I take great pride from being able to teach other people even basic political understanding, so that they’re able to make informed decisions when it comes to the issues which affect them. I care about what is going on in the world around me. I take interest in, talk about, debate and discuss issues which are affecting not just people in Plymouth, but all across the country. I have stood up and been counted when it comes to issues that matter, both through my time with the UK Youth Parliament and as a political activist. How is any of this different to somebody with a different date of birth to me?
One particular comment said that “experience does matter”. Reading some of the comments has reminded me to see everything in context at all times. These people don’t know me, they don’t yet know anything about me. They don’t know where I come from, what I stand for, why I’ve decided to do what I do. I have always been interested in politics and feel at my most comfortable when I’m making a difference to somebody else’s life. Politics is not always about parties and whips and votes and meetings, although of course I recognise the responsibility in regards to all of these things. Sometimes, it’s simply about doing something good for someone. It might be making sure their bins are collected on the right day. It might be sorting out a parking permit. It might be something bigger like opposing an incinerator because they are worried for their family. They may seem like small things to some people, but these things matter to other people. Because, after all, it is people which matter in politics.
I can understand people may worry about an 18 year old representing thousands of people on a City Council. I have thought about that fact myself, too. But I have a lot more knowledge and this thing that they call “experience” under my belt than a lot of people may realise. I am far from naive. I have a lot of passion for change. I am dedicated to helping people of all ages, backgrounds, genders, political persuasion and circumstances.
I grew up in Devonport myself, and can sympathise with many of the problems that occur in the area. I have suffered due to issues with money, anti social behaviour, lack of things to do, unemployment and education. I have had to deal with the same problems that many people in Devonport face every single day. Why am I any less “qualified” to represent these people – people just like me – just because I am 18? I won’t have faced every single problem that families and people face in Devonport today. But I challenge you to find me a councillor anywhere that has. I may not have 50 years worth of living behind me, but I have dealt with and overcome my own problems in my lifetime too. I want to give something back to people like me.
The same comment said that they would be “surprised if I win”. Maybe I won’t. But I’m going to put up a damn good fight. Vote Labour on May the 3rd.
The article can be read here: http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/Labour-strikes-early-Plymouth-city-council-2012/story-15306273-detail/story.html