Initially I first got involved in the world of politics to ensure young people had representation and a voice in my local town of Skegness, Lincolnshire. The average age of the local council was around 60. I thought to myself: no wonder nothing in the town was moving forward when there was no fresh ideas or initiatives being thought up. It was almost like a private members club with one Conservative Councillor who had sat there for over 30 years. Can you believe it?
I therefore decided to stand for election at 18 years of age in the 2011 local elections with the aim of winning a seat on the town council. At the time I had been a member of the Conservative Party since I was 16 and so stood under that banner. I managed to get elected and have never looked back.
My aim was to change things and shake things up. It is fair to say I was not welcomed with open arms by the long standing Councillors. I began putting motions forward and taking my role very seriously. My Conservative colleagues expected me to toe the party line which I did not do. I stood for election to represent my constituents and that’s what I was going to do. I was not there just to be a puppet for the local Tory party.
I spent a lot of time visiting schools, setting up the Skegness Youth Council to get young people involved and engaged in their community. It is still going strong with an elected Youth Mayor now heading it up.
I soon realised after a few months as a sitting Town Councillor in September 2012 that the Conservative Party nationally no longer represented me. I had a tough choice as I continuously found it difficult to support them. I then discovered the UK Independence Party (UKIP) which at the time was relatively unknown compared to now. After many meetings with party officials I decided to make the jump at the September 2012 Conference in Birmingham where I defected on stage with Nigel Farage.
It was a massive thing for me to do at the time. I was 19, had 18 months experience as a Councillor and was now the sole UKIP Councillor in my town, being one of 3 in the County.
I also realised that there was only so much a Town Council could do. It did not have the powers that the District Council and County Council had. I therefore put my name forward to be a County Council candidate in May 2013. I successfully won a seat unseating a senior Conservative Councillor in the Skegness South Division. My majority was just 50 but the response on the door step was truly amazing and I am deeply honoured that the electorate chose me to represent them on the County Council.
Since being elected I have taken on the added responsibilities of being a County Councillor. I get regular phone calls/emails from constituents over just about everything from potholes to social care issues. It is a very varied job but I love it.
I just wish that more young people put themselves forward and I try and encourage young people to do so when I get the chance to talk to them. I always say I do not care what political party you join, but get involved. It is amazing how many are joining UKIP for the first time, i.e. not defecting from the Conservatives or Labour. Of course there is a reason behind why more young people do not stand for election. It is because local politics is a nasty business. You must develop a thick skin if you are to cope with the attacks, the criticism that you are subject to. My message to them is just because we are younger does not mean we do not have just as much right to be involved. There is a massive problem with ageism which is not addressed at all as much as other forms of discrimination.
On the other side of the coin it is very rewarding and my motto is ‘I would much rather be popular with the electorate than the opposition Councillors’. I was not elected to be a good Councillor at County Hall. I was elected to cause as much trouble as possible for the governing group, provide an alternative view and to try to change things. Of course it is difficult to do the latter when in opposition but I hope to convince the people of Lincolnshire that they must continue to vote UKIP so that it is one day possible. Nothing will ever change under the rule of the Tories, Labour – that is evident at a local level and national.
I am always happy to come and speak about anything at your school/college/university, wherever, whenever if the diary permits. Just get in touch.