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How Does a Young Person Get Involved In Politics?

20/07/2015 18:05 BST | Updated 20/07/2016 10:59 BST

"I never thought I would ever be standing for Parliament, let alone aged twenty-two."

It was early morning 8 May 2015, though to me it still felt like 7 May as I had not yet slept. The words fell out of my mouth. I was overcome, I was stunned, I was exhausted.

I was speaking at the General Election count for the Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford constituency. Next to me was the winning candidate, Yvette Cooper, Labour's shadow home secretary. I looked over and saw, tucked behind the press, my parents in the audience.

I genuinely found myself thinking, how on earth could a young, Northern lass from a non-political family find herself a Parliamentary candidate against a Labour heavyweight?

People had told me politics was an old man's game, not a young lady's. My experience had been so very different. I know other young people's will be too.

So how does a young person make the step into politics?

Put simply: join a Party, make contact with your local Association, go to their events, get involved and completely throw yourself into it. You will have fun, you will make new friends and you will learn so much.

It is what I did.

Four years ago I decided to get actively involved in politics. I joined the Conservative Party and used the contact email on the Dewsbury Conservatives website to get in touch with my local Association. They responded immediately, inviting me to come and meet the team at my local MP's next street surgery, so one Saturday I pulled up in front of a group of then strangers and introduced myself.

My local MP at the time was Simon Reevell. I remember feeling a little nervous the first few times I met Simon. This was a highly intelligent man in a position of authority. Until now, my friends had only ever been my own age with a similar background. Suddenly, I found myself in a new world with people from all ages and backgrounds.

However, I soon learnt that my nerves were unnecessary. Simon was not someone who separated himself. He was just another guy with an important job to do, a natural way with people and a sense of humour. He constantly included me, taught me and looked after me.

All MPs I have got to know have been the same. They are keen to help young people who are trying to find their way in politics. I have never been short of people to turn to for advice and opportunities.

In October 2014, a twice University drop out currently working at Sainsbury's, I optimistically applied for a role in the office of Matt Hancock MP. I did not expect anything to come of it. I could not have been more wrong. Matt picked up on my energy and was keen to give me my next foot up the ladder. In January 2014, I started my new job as his Parliamentary Apprentice. Since I started working for Matt, he has constantly mentored me. Despite being an incredibly busy Government Minister, if ever I need advice, he is there.

Those already in politics love it when young people get involved and are keen to help you. You do not have to know everything to get involved. Being from a completely non-political family, I knew hardly anything when I got involved but I have never been short of guidance from people who have become very good friends.

I am not saying it is easy. Like anything in life, in order to get somewhere you have to prove yourself a hard-worker and a committed individual. When I first got involved, I turned up to every event I possibly could making sure people got to know who I was. I worked my socks off and I still do and I will continue to do so.

Politics is like anything else. You get out of it what you put into it.

There is no secret to making your way in politics. There is no age barrier. There is just hard-work, determination and guts.

The only barriers are the ones you convince yourself are there, even though they are not. The only thing stopping yourself from getting involved, is you.

People often say it is so good to see the next generation of politicians getting involved. I actually do not like it when people use the phrase 'next generation of politicians'. We are not the next generation, we are the current generation. We do not have to wait until we are older to have our say. We can and should do it now. So go on. Go for it. Get involved.