On May 22, England heads to the polls to elect councillors for 162 local authorities across the country. Thousands of Labour candidates are standing from Camden to Coventry, among them many young people hoping to make their mark in public service.
Anticipations spoke to two Young Fabians standing in the local elections to find out what it takes to become a councillor. If you are interested in learning more about standing for public office, check out our ‘Careers in politics’ event on June 18.
The selection process
Unsa Chaudri (Osterley and Spring Grove Ward, London Borough of Hounslow)
One you’ve decided to run for council there are a number of other things you need to consider. Having been active for a while in the Labour Party, the first thing for me was to ensure I was ready for the panel interview. Usually this is conducted by members of your constituency.
In some areas, including mine, it was explained that we would be interviewed by councillors and Labour Party members from other constituencies. This can be nerve-wracking but no more so than any job or university interview. In fact, I found my interviewers welcoming and friendly and once I received my letter saying I had been successful, they were happy to provide me with feedback.
Now I had to decide which ward I wanted to stand in. You can run for any ward in your borough, but you have to be nominated and selected by the ward members. I thought of two wards I wanted to stand in and spoke to a couple of ward members to ask if they would be willing to nominate me.
During the process I was nominated in four wards, two that I had hoped for and two that were a complete surprise.
I thought about it and decided to stand in Osterley and Spring Grove, one of the two wards I had hoped to stand in. I compiled a pamphlet detailing why I wanted to run for council and why I had chosen to stand in this ward. I then visited every ward member, gave them my pamphlet and spoke with them about the selection.
On the day of the selection, the time to make our speech was shortened to two minutes, due to the number of candidates, followed by questions for five minutes. This was the part I was most dreading, as I did not know what to expect. Thankfully it went well and the response from the ward members was very positive and encouraging. I am pleased to say I was selected with two other candidates to stand for Osterley and Spring Grove in the upcoming local elections.
On the campaign trail
John Howard (Aldborough Ward, London Borough of Redbridge)
Running for council when you’re a young person is one of the most exciting, terrifying and exhausting things that I have done. I’m running in my home ward, where I attended primary school and where my parent’s house still stands. Going around talking to residents (many of whom I know personally) and trying to solve their problems is really rewarding and the idea that I could be representing them in the town hall come May is genuinely exciting.
The on-the-ground campaigning is brilliant fun. I have two excellent ward colleagues plus a great organiser I am able to rely on. This is especially important as I’m standing in a target ward in a target borough so the campaign has as bit of a buzz about it. Thanks to our Young Labour section, we have a decent number of young council candidates who will hopefully be celebrating with me after the election.
Sometimes it is tough. Redbridge isn’t blessed with a central London sized pool of activists, so my Thursdays are usually spent harassing hard-pressed volunteers to help out at the weekend. Money’s tight and I have to balance my increasing campaign commitments with doing a full-time job and having something that resembles a social life.
Overall being a young candidate has been a fascinating experience, and with the prospect of having the first Labour majority on our council on May 22, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.