Ollie Middleton is one of the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) profiled in the new Young Fabians pamphlet 'Fifteen for 2015'. You can read the pamphlet here.
Labour is a party that speaks to all generations. After all, the triumph of progress over reaction can only be secured by people of all ages, races, and backgrounds pulling together as one. It is therefore inspiring to see so many young Labour candidates standing for parliament this year engaging and organising their peers in the cause of a better society.
Ollie Middleton is one of the youngest Labour PPCs in the race to Westminster. At the age of 20, he has already worked harder than many activists twice his age to spread the party’s message. More than that, he is a shining example of why Labour, more than any other party, motivates young people to bring positive change to their home communities.
“I became involved in politics about three years ago– largely because of what I was experiencing and seeing happen under this government. Long-term certainties and securities are being challenged. The NHS is being eroded along with the welfare state, and my generation has been hit particularly hard by this government through the scrapping of the educational maintenance allowance and high youth unemployment,” he says.
Ollie had two options: sit quietly and allow these injustices to go unchallenged or do something about them. He chose the latter course. “I saw the Labour party as an alternative. It’s a naturally progressive party, which was one of the reasons I was drawn towards it”.
Ollie joined the party in 2012 and leapt at the opportunity to represent Labour when the Bath selection came up the following year. “Bath is my home, and it’s fantastic to get the chance to stand in my home city – that’s first and foremost why I’m standing”.
Ollie’s youth has attracted well-worn sneers from some quarters that he is just another career politician out for himself. It’s an insult he’s heard many times before and he doesn’t hold back in his response: “People get bogged down with terms like ‘career politician’, but it’s usually used to side-step more fundamental issues that are turning people off politics. We should be judging our politicians on what values and life experience they have, not on whether they have a mortgage or do a certain job. Obviously I’m a young candidate, but we need more young people in politics and parliament should be a cross-section of our society, and that includes young people.”
It’s also hard to deride Ollie as a careerist when he’s standing in a seat where the incumbent enjoys a 23,000 vote advantage over Labour. In such a battle, it’s values and passion for the movement that get him on the doorstep over any measure of personal ambition. This is clear from his description of the local campaign.
“The national Labour message resonates at the local level here in Bath- the cost of living, the state of the economy, and the NHS. When I speak to people the general feel is that the country does tend to favour those at the top and that the government only stands up for those at the top.”
There are strong examples of these national issues impacting on the local area, too. “For example, our local hospital, Royal United, the biggest in the area, is under a lot of pressure. Transport is a really big issue too with us being in a rural area, and again we’re the only party with a real offer on improving efficiency and affordability.”
You can tell Ollie genuinely cares about these issues rather than just going through the motions. He’s had ample opportunity to air his views, too. Despite Bath being a safe Liberal Democrat seat, there have been more hustings in the constituency than most. “We’ve had around fifteen hustings in total, and this has been a high publicity campaign. It’s been a lot of work but great for Labour’s profile in the South West, too”.
Louie Woodall is a member of the Young Fabians Executive Committee