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Meeting the Class of '22

This year’s local elections saw many exciting young leaders stand and win in their communities. We’ll be featuring some of them in upcoming blog posts. Today we feature three young councillors who were victorious in different parts of the UK.

Bucking trends in Buckinghamshire

Shanika Mahendran is a 24-year-old Labour Party councillor in Milton Keynes, elected last week in the Loughton and Shenley ward.

On Thursday 5th May’s local elections, the Conservative Party held its position as the largest party in Milton Keynes. While no single party has overall control, a Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition is expected to continue sharing power over the council.

The up-and-comer had always been interested in politics, “but it was another young person who got me involved in the first place”, she says. After meeting a young campaigner during door-to-door canvassing, she was invited to participate. “I loved it and got more and more involved since then”, adding that she tries to pass on that inspiration, “by encouraging other young people I meet to get more involved”.

Shanika (front) takes a selfie with activists during a canvassing session.

Currently studying an MsC in Sustainable Cities, her campaigning has often had an environmental focus. Holding monthly litter picks in the community has helped foster connections in her local area. Shanika says she’s motivated by a range of challenges that she can have an impact on as a councillor, “from tackling the climate crisis in a city to advocating for individual residents”.

At My Life My Say, we like to say that “if you don’t do politics, politics will do you”. Shanika phrases it in a similarly emboldening way, adding that “politics is what you make of it”.

In our recent Youth Democracy Index with Opinium, we found that a majority of young people don’t trust politicians. The data showed that young people feel underrepresented and ignored.

The young councillor takes a proactive view - “if you feel underrepresented and ignored, go out and change that”.

Shanika is yet another living example who dispels the myth of youth apathy. “Your voice matters”, she says, “once you start using it and seeing the change you can make, it’s incredibly empowering”.

A Yellow Wave in Wales?

Glyn Preston was among last Thursday’s youngest new councillors. The 22-year-old stood for the Welsh Liberal Democrats in the small town of Llanidloes in the picturesque county of Powys.

The Liberal Democrats achieved a net positive result in the local elections as a whole, but their victories in Powys were particularly “seismic”, as the Welsh party leader Jane Dodds told local media.

Glyn’s win was one out of 24 on the day, with the three-thousand strong town sending the young Lib Dem to represent the community as a county councillor.

Glyn takes a breather on a bridge while on the campaign trail in Llanidloes

Like many young people, Glyn felt a sense that politics wasn’t delivering for the local area. "I decided to stand to be a County Councillor because I was fed up at the way our Council was being run”, says Glyn.

While a promising future in politics awaits Glyn, the county council is clearly the current priority for practical change. “I know how effective a local councillor can be in getting stuff done for residents", Glyn asserts.

London Calling for Labour?

The capital was another key battleground for political parties during the local elections. For the Labour Party, winning the North London council of Barnet from the Conservatives was a top target.

Liron Velleman is a young councillor who was victorious for Labour in Barnet last Thursday. He is no stranger to politics, working as Policy Officer for the Jewish Labour Movement. He is also involved in Hope Not Hate, an organisation that aims to combat intolerance and bigotry in politics.

The proximity to the community and the possibility to see change is what drew him to local representation. “It was through local politics and councillors that I learnt what a difference a council with the right priorities could make”, Liron explains.

Liron (left) and Ella Rose (right) are now both councillors for the ward of Whetstone in Barnet

At the age of 27, he finds encouragement in seeing a rise in youth leaders entering local politics, adding that he has always wanted to “be part of a younger cohort of councillors changing the world street by street!". Indeed, Liron's ward of Whetstone also elected Ella Rose, a fellow young Jewish activist.

These featured councillors are only a small contingent of the many young leaders that won last Thursday. My Life My Say congratulates all the young candidates who put their name forward at the local elections. We look forward to announcing a new program to expand on our successes in youth voter registration and in helping build young leaders in politics.

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