Two teenagers are proving it is never too early to get involved in politics, as they campaign in this year’s Kent Youth County Council (KYCC) election.
Tom Pritchard from St.John’s, 15 and David Wright from Sevenoaks, 16, are both in Year 11 at St. Gregory’s Catholic School, making them eligible to represent the young people of Tunbridge Wells. Tom was elected last year and is supporting David’s campaign this time around.
Last Thursday (November 10) rather than having their usual timetable of classes, they spent the day in the school’s library-cum-polling station, canvassing for David’s election to the KYCC, to work alongside Tom as a representative for the Tunbridge Wells borough.
Speaking of his motivation for running David said: “It’s an opportunity to make people’s lives better, in a way that can’t be achieved at school. What the Youth Council provides is a place to speak about the issues on our mind, so that young people’s voices can be heard.”
“Hats off to whoever came up with the idea [of the KYCC], otherwise children might be seen but not heard,” adds Tom.
Established in 2001, 60 young people are elected to the KYCC each year, with 30,000 children in the county voted last year. Meeting once a month in County Hall, the members discuss issues to campaign on and then liaise and lobby the senior council to achieve their aims.
This gives young enthusiasts the opportunity to speak directly to the County Council about the issues they care about. For Tom, his passion lies with getting ‘real life subjects’ to be taught in schools, such as home economics, sex education painting and decorating and woodwork. “These are the key things that you need to get you through life. Things like changing a light bulb or putting up a shelf. They don’t teach it in schools and that’s a real problem,” he said.
And the pair are keen to dispel the notion that politics is only for the adults, as David, whose interest in politics was recently brought on by the US election, argues: “It’s better to get into it early and learn when you’re young, rather than blunder through politics and look like a fool.”
Although Tom, who was one of the town’s frontline Leave campaigners during the summer’s referendum, was more conciliatory to the older generation: “Getting into politics at any age is good really. As long as you’re in touch with your constituents and they’re in touch with you, I don’t think it matters whether you’re 15 or Dennis Skinner in his eighties.
“Although I would say that younger people do have a bit more energy, we might be able to distribute leaflets a bit quicker than some of the older individuals.”
And it is this energy which Tom, who is currently in the process of defecting from UKIP to the Conservatives, hopes he can carry through into his future, with his sights set firmly on Westminster:
“I want to have a career before politics because the one thing I can’t stand is career politicians. So I’d like to get involved in political journalism or perhaps teaching and then pursue a candidacy for a Member of Parliament.
“I want to be involved, to represent people who have had a poor time.”
- Voting closes on midnight Sunday November 20. To vote, you must be 11-18 and live or work or go to school in Kent. Visit: kent.gov.uk/about-the-council/youth-participation/kent-youth-county-council to vote.