YOUNG VOICES

The Youngest General Election 2017 Candidates Who Are Bidding To Become The Next Mhairi Black

Will your next MP still be doing their A Levels?

07/06/2017 17:20 | Updated 08 June 2017

When Mhairi Black was elected as an MP in 2015, she made history. 

But it was not just because of her shock win over big beast and shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, disrupting 70 years of Labour victories in Paisley and Renfrewshire South

At just 20, politics student Black was the youngest person to be elected to Parliament since 1667, when a 13-year-old Duke won a seat in Devon. 

With the average age of politicians in the House of Commons set at 50 following the 2015 election, the SNP candidate was in a minority of MPs closer to applying for a student loan than withdrawing their pension. 

But this election could see Black lose her position as “baby of the House” after just two years, with the six main parties all putting up teenagers, university students and school pupils. 

Conservative Party 

Tom Dowse, 20 

Tom Dowse
Tom Dowse wants to begin the first Tory MP in Staylbridge and Hyde for more than 70 years 

According to local councillor Tom Dowse, he’s far from a “caricature of a Tory”, despite the fact he’s battling to become an MP for the party at the tender age of just 20. 

Inspired to join the Conservatives after growing up watching his mum struggle as a low-paid worker, Dowse believes “you have to contribute something before you take something back”. 

“I grew up in the Labour years,” says Dowse, who is originally from the Isle of Man. “With the economic situation, she [his mother] was in and out of jobs and the government didn’t help her.

“I could see that things like a tax threshold increase would be a real benefit to her and her standard of life.”

Now a part-time history student at the University of Manchester, he is fighting to become MP for nearby Stalybridge and Hyde.

A Labour seat since 1945, Dowse would have to overturn a majority of almost 7,000 votes to win. 

Despite having history against him, Dowse - who also works for an engineering firm - thinks that the area’s decision to vote leave in the EU Referendum means he is in with a shot of turning the area blue on polling day. 

“I think this is the year,” he said. “We need to win the seat now.” 

Dowse continued: “Jeremy Corbyn talks about the politics of envy - these people have this, these people have that. 

“But with us, regardless of where you have come from, it’s about where you can go.”  

Labour Party

Eli Aldridge, 18 

Westmorland Gazette
Eli Aldridge is thought to be the youngest election candidate in 2017

Born on Christmas day 1998, Labour Party candidate Eli Aldridge is thought to be the youngest candidate in the General Election this year. If his bid is successful, he will become the youngest MP in the last 350 years. 

But the schoolboy isn’t going to let his tender years, or his A Level exams, stand in this way of his dream.

Running against Lib Dem leader Tim Farron in Westmorland and Lonsdale, the teen says he’s in with a good chance of overturning beating the decade-long MP, who held the seat from the Tories by almost 9,000 votes in 2015. 

Labour came in fourth behind UKIP, with just 2,661 votes. 

“I’m not just some jumped up kid who wants to improve his CV,” he said. “I’m in this to win this.

“I know what the world is like now. If you went into politics in the 1970s or 1980s, it would be very easy for you to never have a look at what the world is moving on from.” 

Hoping to become the “voice” of young people in Parliament, the teenager is backing Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to abolish university tuition fees. 

Aldridge is also calling for the voting age to be lowered to 16, having missed out on having his say in the EU Referendum by just six months. 

“Some of the brightest and most engaged people I know are 16 and 17 years old and I think it’s such a shame those people aren’t afforded the opportunity to vote.” 

Compulsory political education should be implemented in schools to help young people engage with politics, the sixth form student said. 

“Right now, the voter turnout for young people is awful,” he added.

Liberal Democrats

Thomas Gravatt, 21 

Catriona McDougall
Thomas Gravatt, a Southampton University student, has delayed his final exams for the election 

When the Lib Dems infamously U-turned on their pledge to oppose tuition fee increases in 2010, they burned their bridges with thousands of young voters. 

But for Thomas Gravatt, a third-year Southampton University student, that’s all in the past. 

Now vying to become MP in Southampton Test - a Labour seat since the year after he was born - the 21-year-old says he too was “quite upset” by the fee hike controversy. 

“I see there is an issue with trust because I thought exactly the same thing,” Gravatt said. 

“We can’t go back and change it, but what we do have is Tim Farron, who voted against the tuition fee rise, as our leader. 

“We have a party which is dramatically different to the one we had in 2010 - it’s much more supportive of young people and has young people’s issues at heart.” 

Despite paying £27,000 in tuition fees himself, the undergraduate - who has delayed his exams for the election - says the fee system introduced under the coalition is actually “pretty good” as students don’t have to pay “up front”.

“What it means is, unlike the old system, students aren’t burdened with the cost of their education.

“It also means that people who don’t go to university aren’t paying for the middle class kids who do.”

To win the Southampton seat, Gravatt will need to overturn a Labour majority. In 2015, the party received more than 18,000 votes, with the Tories coming in second, almost 4,000 behind. 

Green Party 

Lawrence McNally, 19  

Lawrence McNally
19-year-old Lawrence McNally says his experiences as a student pushed him to stand in the election 

For Lawrence McNally, the 19-year-old Green Party candidate for the Cities of London and Westminster, his experience as a student was fundamental in his decision to run in the election. 

Originally from Blackburn, the Kings College London undergraduate moved to the capital a year ago to study Ancient History. 

“I’m finding it quite difficult at the moment, being a student in London,” he said.

“I’m going through the struggles of trying to find a house, coping with the costs of living and travel.” 

“What we really need in this constituency is a good progressive voice that is pushing for social change,” McNally added. “So I thought I might as well put myself forward.” 

And he’s keeping his image as a student at the forefront of his campaign.

Take a quick look at his Twitter account and you will see posts about exams, his friends getting turned away from clubs and the perils of student housing. 

“I’m not trying to hide who I am, being a teenager on Twitter,” he said. 

“I have had people ask if I’m going to delete all my tweets. Why would I do that?”

McNally continued: “I’m not going to shy away from the fact I’m a young person running for Parliament.

“I may as well embrace that and make it a standpoint of my campaign.”

Cities of London and Westminster is currently held by the Tories, with the Green polling in fourth position in 2015 with 1,953 votes.

UKIP 

Nathan Ryding, 19

Kyle Kemp
Nathan Ryding says he has convinced a number of friends at college to vote UKIP 

“In my opinion, UKIP doesn’t even have a radical stance on immigration - it’s quite a common sense stance,” says 19-year-old Wigan candidate Nathan Ryding. 

Motivated to join the party by a strong desire to leave the EU, the former Army recruit says that if he’s elected, he will push the future Prime Minister to deliver Brexit. 

“Some people see Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as unable to deliver Brexit, that they don’t want Brexit,” the public services student said. 

“Then there’s the possibility Theresa May will backslide on Brexit.

“By having UKIP MPs in Parliament, it’s protecting the democratic vote.” 

Although Wigan has been a Labour seat for almost 100 years, and is held by party rising star Lisa Nandy, the teen says he’s “hopeful” he will win the vote, with constituents offering plenty of compliments on the doorstep. 

But what do his college classmates think? While Wigan voted Leave in the EU Referendum, a whopping 75% of under 25s voted to Remain.  

“When I first started talking about politics in college, I would say most people were left wing,” Ryding said.

“But they heard me out, which is more than I can say about a lot of people on the left. They have gone and done their own research and they have come back and said: ‘Actually, I agree.’ 

“The media now portray UKIP in this light that it doesn’t attract young people,” he continued.

“When in fact, if they went away and read our policies and manifesto, we would get quite a surge of young people joining the party.”

UKIP polled 8,818 votes in Wigan in 2015, placing in third.

Scottish National Party 

Mhairi Black, 22 

PA Wire/PA Images
Mhairi Black became the youngest MP for 350 years when she was elected in 2015 

Mhairi Black made history in 2015 when she was elected as MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South aged just 20. 

Not only did she beat decade-long MP Douglas Alexander, who was also Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, but she became the youngest MP for almos 350 years. 

Weeks away from finishing her degree when she was elected, Black found herself studying for a university politics exam in the House of Commons library during her first day in Parliament. 

However, the now 22-year-old, who held the seat by more than 5,500 votes, cast doubts over whether she would stand again when she said in March that she “hates” Westminster. 

She told the Sunday Post: “It has been nearly two years and I still hate the place. It is depressing. 

“It is the personal elements – it is a pain to come up and down every week and you are working with a number of people you find quite troubling.” 

Nonetheless, Black is now battling for her seat in the election, claiming that young people stand to be “left behind” by a Conservative government.

Mhairi Black did not respond to repeated requests from HuffPost UK for interview. 

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