Tina Bhartwas writes about her experience standing in a local election as a young person.
This year, I was selected to stand as the Labour and Co-operative Candidate for Baldock Town in North Hertfordshire, whilst completing Year 13. I had spent the previous local election cycle on the campaign trail and the Conservative Party led council which had been blue for two decades ( longer than I have been alive!) turned to no overall control, defying the national swing and leading to a joint administration.
I also campaigned in the European elections, a Parliamentary by-election and later the General Election, working 4 polling days in my first year of being a party member. Early on in my campaigning experiences I knew that I wanted to stand for North Hertfordshire District Council [NHDC] so I researched young candidates to find out what it would be like and found very little content.
It was difficult not seeing people with my characteristics in those spaces and this is something that needs to change sooner rather than later. So I set about filling in the form.
It was accepted and soon I was ready to be panelled. Prior to the interview, I attended a Co-operative Party Youth Summer School in Birmingham and during this, the ‘Standing for Council’ session was incredibly useful. It was great to meet young councillors and other young people with similar goals, some of whom I am still in contact with and have been a fantastic support system for me.
When I was interviewed I was initially nervous but the panels demeanour made me increasingly comfortable throughout the interview. I passed and almost immediately began preparing for the next stage. Selection!
I wrote and prepared a speech for my selection meeting detailing my local knowledge and community involvement. I was well prepared and this paid off as I was able to answer the questions in the room with ease.
After a short deliberation I was voted in as the candidate unanimously.
Canvassing, leafleting and robust use of social media were incredibly important tools that I took advantage of during the Campaign. I found a lot of support from young activists in my home CLP and Eastern Region where members travelled to campaign for me. I stood on a platform of change and electing a fresh, new voice for the ward. My pledges were based on local issues including Recycling and Waste Collection, which had been pretty poor in the previous administration, Unsafe parking which adversely affected residents who lived by a local school and being able to access a local representative with ease.
I found the campaign to be a positive experience. Certainly, a lot of voters whilst on the doorstep were pleasantly surprised by my age. I was recognised in the community as a local Charity Trustee and Climate Change Activist and I even canvassed one of my old teachers!
Being a young candidate comes with its own particular set of pressures. A lot of organisation and time management was required from early on in order to balance the campaign with studying in the lead up to my final A-Level examinations.
I faced a lot of challenges with regards to intersectionality. As a young, working-class, BAME woman, it is that much harder because often you do not see people with those characteristics in these spaces. During the campaign, I was subjected to racism and misogyny along with abuse on social media which still continues. Unfortunately, this was something I expected, having faced abuse whilst campaigning before and through speaking to others about being in the public eye.
In one form or another, I have always spent a lot of time representing people and I thought standing for the council would be a great opportunity for me to make a positive impact on my community.
I will continue sharing my experiences so other young people can see what standing for office is like because local, regional and national government needs progressive Young Fabian voices.