Updated: Jun 13, 2022
All eyes are on the saga surrounding the Prime Minister…and also the Love Island season opener! Whether you think last night’s vote of confidence has left him vindicated or vulnerable, there’s no denying the drama ahead of the by-elections later this month.
Last month’s local elections, on the other hand, were far less dramatic. At My Life My Say, we helped register more than 50,000 voters on National Voter Registration Day alone! We have been hearing from inspiring young councillors across the country and from a range of political parties about their victories in May. You can read the first piece in the series now!
Humaira from Hackney
Let’s start in London, which was a crucial battleground for the council elections. In the Borough of Hackney, Humaira Garasia is a Labour councillor for the Haggerston ward. She was initially elected at the age of 21 back in 2018, so she is not totally new to local politics. She now serves as the borough’s speaker.
Haggerston is a diverse community, with impressive green spaces and the beautiful Regent’s canal intersecting the ward. As with many metropolitan boroughs, inequality is relatively high.
This is where Humaira’s story began.
At school she got involved in “numerous social action projects”, prioritising fights against child poverty. “Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t feel like politics is for them”, she said. Coming from a working class family herself, campaigns against child poverty “impacted and motivated” her to “change what these young people were feeling”.
At our organisation, we always say that “if you don’t do politics, politics will do you”. Humaira is an excellent example of this. “Why isn’t politics for us, why can’t we have a voice?”, she asks rhetorically. “Decisions impact us and we should be able to have a say”, she explains. Humaira is an advocate for representation, adding that she “wanted every young person regardless of background to have a voice”.
“I never thought I would become a councillor”, she added, as she touched upon one of the reasons for blogs like these. “If I didn’t have those inspirational councillors encouraging participation, I wouldn’t be a councillor today”, she said.
Humaira is excited to use her position to “tackle hate crime, making sure all individuals feel safe regardless of faith, gender, race or sexuality”. In regards to increasing youth engagement, she wants to encourage involvement in the Youth Parliament and Young Hackney, which aims to bridge the democratic gap between young people and institutions.
To fellow young people, Humaira reminds them that they “definitely belong” in decision-making. “Politics is for everything - it is our right to be represented. We are the future leaders of this country”.
New Names in Newham
A short cycle away from Humaira’s borough of Hackney is Newham, where Nate Higgins serves as a councillor. The young Green was described as a “rising star” in the New Statesman. His borough has been exclusively ‘red’ for over a decade, with every ward sending Labour councillors into the Newham town hall. The Red Wall of Newham now has some Green bricks.
Nate Higgins (centre)
Nate serves the ward of Stratford, which hosts the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and other facilities from London 2012. At the time, it was an area covered by international media as a former “wasteland”.
While the investment due to the Olympics has significantly changed the façade of Stratford, deprivation is still a factor in life outcomes. This is what marks Nate’s perspective.
“I come from a very deprived background”, he begins, “and when you grow up in those circumstances, your life can become inherently political”, - again: if you don’t do politics, politics will do you. He developed a “fierce sense of justice” and saw involvement in politics as a useful outlet for that impetus.
However, like Humaira, Nate never saw himself in elected politics until he was asked. “I encourage everyone to think about the passionate people in your life and ask them if they’ve ever considered standing for election – your question could be the thing that opens the door”, as it was for him.
The Green up-and-comer highlighted the cost of living emergency, in particular the housing crisis. Citing a rise in demand and speculation, Nate declared that he’s going to “fight to free young people to live wherever in Newham they want to, which should help reduce pressure on rents”.
Cost of living is one of the ways young people are witnessing societal issues face-to-face in today’s world. Indeed, their concern over cost of living often gets confused with apathy. “It’s not quite true”, he said. The reality is that the opposite is the case, as Nate pointed out, saying “my generation is incredibly interested in politics, particularly matters of climate and social justice - we just don’t necessarily see a lot to be inspired by in the current political system and party politics”.
“We can change outcomes if we get involved”, Nate asserts. He is yet another example of this theory in action. Kindly, he reiterates our evergreen phrase that “if you don’t do politics, politics will do you”.
Honoured in Harrow
From North East London to North West Greater London, Matthew Goodwin-Freeman is a newly elected young Conservative councillor. Serving in Harrow’s Hatch End ward, Matthew is following in the footsteps of his late grandfather, who was also a local councillor in the borough.
The reason he got into politics, he says, was to “inspire other people” and “make a difference”. He finds it “important to take pride in your local area and to support others”, striving to “make an impact”.
Those values of service and ambition were not limited to his grandfather, but were also passed on by his mother. “Sadly, I lost my mother at the start of the election campaign”, who inspired him to “work hard and dream big - so I would like to think I am fulfilling the vision she saw for me”.
As someone who grew up in the local area, Matthew feels “honoured to represent” his “community” and “generation”.
The Conservatives took over in Harrow after the borough was in Labour control for 12 years. From Matthew’s perspective, his work is based on “rebuilding” and “restoring pride” in the borough. He looks forward to doing “everything [he] can for constituents” and making a “lasting impact”.
His advice to other young people is direct: “You can do it”, he insists. Adding that “if someone says ‘you can’t do it’ or ‘you’re too young’ or ‘you’re not ready yet’, prove them wrong”.
When we hear the myth of apathy as young people, we can sometimes react with pessimism. Matthew rejects that attitude, with the reminder to “not let the views of others limit you”.
These young councillors, from diverse backgrounds and political persuasions, are refusing to be put in a box, or be ignored in the decision-making process. Vote of no confidence aside, that is one thing we can definitely be confident of.