Youngsters taking up the political baton

ACTIVIST Hannah Wright at home in Southsea. Hannah is a member of Young Labour in Portsmouth. Picture: Malcolm Wells (132799-5482)
ACTIVIST Hannah Wright at home in Southsea. Hannah is a member of Young Labour in Portsmouth. Picture: Malcolm Wells (132799-5482)

Campaigners holding information morning in Portsmouth on state pensions

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Politics is the preserve of older generations and young people have no place in political parties.

That is a statement young people living in the area who have joined a wide variety of parties would strongly disagree with.

So how have young people – some just 16 years old – already decided not only to pay attention to local and national politics but also which party is best for them?

It would be a disservice to their fledgling political careers to assume their views have been entirely informed by their parents.

Portsmouth Young Labour member Hannah Wright, 18, of Inglis Road, Southsea, Portsmouth, is clear why she decided to join the party more than a year ago.

She said it was after the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats formed the current coalition government in 2010.

‘Before I wasn’t convinced because I didn’t know the parties that well,’ she said.

‘And then I saw the Tories in action – and I knew that I liked Labour.

‘I think they’re the best party to help people, and I want to be involved with that.

‘Labour is looking out for working class people more so than the Tories are.’

Hannah, who is studying politics, history, philosophy and religious studies at Portsmouth College, names the government’s so-called bedroom tax as one of the reasons why she joined Labour.

The government calls it the spare-room subsidy and it means people living in smaller homes than they are deemed to need will have their housing benefit reduced.

Hannah added she has since become active in Young Labour in the city.

She said: ‘I like to get involved in local issues but I also do care about national issues, and often they’re one and the same.

‘We’ve done a lot of door-knocking, leafleting, things like that, finding out what people think are issues in the local community that they want councillors to deal with.’

Hayden Taylor, 17, of Military Road, in Hilsea, is a member of the Liberal Democrats.

And he is the leader of the Young Liberal Democrats in Portsmouth.

Hayden also told The News his political views have little to do with those of his family.

He said: ‘I haven’t been influenced by my household – and that generally is an issue with voting.

‘People need to make their own mind up rather than be influenced by those around them. What spurred me on is just seeing things around me that I wanted to be changed – from basic things, like there not being litter bins in certain areas, to tax being extortionately high and minimum wage being too low for people my age.

‘I always got involved in student council and was chairman of the council of Portsmouth students.

‘I’ve always had that passion there but I had never politicised it.’

They are spread out across the political spectrum but almost all of the young people The News spoke to agreed their views will not change in the future.

And all are confident their views are being listened to.

Louis Clements, 16, of Devonshire Avenue, Southsea, is a member of Conservative Future.

He said: ‘I’m pretty sure that the Conservatives are going to be my party.

‘I don’t agree with any of the other parties’ policies, so it would be hard if I thought I could change.’

But 24-year-old Chris Wood, of Stubbington, has already changed parties – he was a Tory at the age of 16 but joined Ukip in March 2012.

He won election to the Fareham Crofton division at Hampshire County Council in May this year.

He said: ‘I was joining the Royal Navy and started going through training to be a warfare officer in the submarine service.

‘I saw what the Conservatives had done, they’ve scrapped numerous ships and cut the British Army.

‘Locally they were going to put a road down to Daedalus without telling any of us.

‘So I went off and joined Ukip and said if our local councillors can’t do their job then I’ll do it for them.’

‘PEOPLE DON’T GET INVOLVED - THAT’S PART OF THE PROBLEM’

ACTIVE Hannah Wright joined the Labour Party more than a year ago.

Hannah, 18, of Inglis Road, in Southsea, Portsmouth, is a Portsmouth College pupil.

Now a member of Young Labour in Portsmouth she is keen to see others to get involved – even if they join other parties.

She said: ‘I think that especially in my age group there’s so much apathy when it comes to politics.

‘People just don’t care, they don’t get involved, that’s part of the problem too.

‘The more young people that get involved because their opinions really matter – especially as what the government is doing at the moment really affects under-25s, and they’re the people who don’t vote.’

Hannah told The News she looks up to Clement Attlee, the former Labour prime minister who with his health minister, Aneurin Bevan, brought the NHS into existence.

She said: ‘That’s probably one of the best things that’s happened to the country in the past 100 years.’

‘I WANT TO SEE A FAIRER SOCIETY’

LOYAL Hayden Taylor joined the Liberal Democrats in 2011.

Already Hayden, 17, of Military Road, in Hilsea, is the leader of the Portsmouth Young Liberal Democrats.

The Portsmouth College student is guided by fairness.

He said: ‘I want to see a fairer society, something that is inclusive – something where lower-class hard-working people also get tax cuts, it’s basic ideology like that I wanted to make sure remained in the UK.’

And Hayden is clearly ambitious – although he admits he has a long way to go before he can think about standing for election.

He said: ‘I’ve got a long way to go – it’s not something I could actually say right now.

‘Whether I’m being a foot soldier and campaigning for a fairer society or whether I’m deciding to run for council in the future, I don’t know yet.’

Hayden, who went to Admiral Lord Nelson School, looks up to two political figures – Tim Farron MP, president of the Lib Dems and Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem leader of Portsmouth City Council.

‘UKIP IS A BREATH OF FRESH AIR’

CLLR Christopher Wood won a seat on Hampshire County Council aged just 23.

Cllr Wood, of Stubbington, was a Conservative at the age of 16 but joined Ukip in March this year.

The member for Fareham Crofton said: ‘Ukip is a breath of fresh air, the members 
are honest in what they 
believe in, they give a straight answer and they’re straight talking.

‘The warmth you feel with our members is brilliant.

‘As a young person in another party you’re there as leaflet fodder and nothing else.’

Cllr Wood is a former Crofton School and Bay House School Sixth Form pupil.

Since joining Ukip he has been invited to give his thoughts on his party’s defence policy.

‘You wouldn’t get that in any other political parties,’ he adds.

‘If you go to our conferences it’s brilliant, it’s down-to-earth.

‘There are no lobbyists, just party members discussing policy.’

He now works for the investment firm Skandia in Southampton.

‘THE PARTY REALLY SPOKE TO MY VALUES’

Miles Grindey has already stood against veteran politicians when he contested a seat for the Green Party.

The 18-year-old is a Young Green and member of the South East Hampshire Green Party.

He stood for election to Hampshire County Council in the Fareham Warsash division in May this year.

He said: ‘I’ve always held these political views that my parents have brought me up on.

‘I’ve adapted them with my own personal opinion.

‘It wasn’t until after the Eastleigh by-election where I met the National Health Action Party candidate – who said “it sounds like you should really join the Greens” – that I did.

‘I found that the party really spoke to my values.

‘That’s equality, fairness for all, social justice, and that everyone has an equal say in our society.’

And it is not just his family who have part-inspired Miles’ politics – he looks up to former Labour MP Tony Benn.

‘Hell, I even have a pipe like his,’ says Miles.

‘In his own words he says what he means and means what he says – that’s all I can say about him.’

‘THEY PUT PEOPLE WHO PAY TAXES BEFORE PEOPLE WHO DON’T’

CONSERVATIVE Louis Clements joined the Tories after going along to a city council meeting.

The 16-year-old, of Devonshire Avenue, in Southsea, Portsmouth, is a member of Conservative Future.

Leader of the Portsmouth Tory group Cllr Donna Jones invited Louis along to the council meeting in July.

The Havant College student said: ‘Personally I believe they’re the only party that represents actual hard-working people.

‘They reward people who go out and work and have careers, they put people who pay taxes before the people who don’t.

‘They believe in a fairer society.’

Louis said he has been interested in politics since he was 14 years old.

And he turns to former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher for his political inspiration.

He said: ‘If I had to pick one it would be Margaret Thatcher because she stood up for us internationally as well as keeping Britain strong, for the majority of the time.

‘She wasn’t scared to make the hard decisions that everyone else was.’