VIDEO: Interview with Peter Dowd (Labour MP for Bootle)

It has been an absolute pleasure to complete my first face-to-face interview with Bootle’s newly elected Labour MP, Peter Dowd today. Mr Dowd achieved an incredible 74.5% of the vote, 33,000 votes and a 29,000 majority. It was great to meet up with him and discuss why young people should get involved in politics and why Andy Burnham is the right person to be Labour Leader: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ao5kwa15QVs

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Interview with Howling Laud Hope (Leader of The Monster Raving Loony Party)

The Monster Raving Loony Party are the most well-known satirical party. They were set up in the early 1980s and lead by musician David Sutch (also known as ‘Screaming Lord Sutch.’) Following his death in 1999, the party had to elect a new leader. Alan ‘Howling Laud’ Hope was elected as new joint-leader of the party along with his pet cat ‘Catmando.’

Despite being branded as a joke party, several of their policies have actually become law including scrapping the 11+ exam, pubs being open all day and that pets should have passports. It was a pleasure to be able to interview the current leader, Howling Laud Hope.

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  • How important is it that young people take an interest in politics?

“This is greatly important to us. We originally were set-up and called The NATIONAL TEENAGE PARTY back in 1963 with the main aim of highlighting the absurdity of 18-20 year olds being able to join the armed forces, marry, drink, smoke and pay TAX but they were denied a voice on who represented them …. we fixed that!”

  • What is the best thing about being leader of The Monster Raving Loony Party?

“Simply because Lord Sutch and myself started the party in 1982, and I feel very privileged that I am able to carry it forward to the future !”

  • Seven of the Monster Raving Loony Party’s policies have become law. This includes ‘passports for pets’ and ‘pubs open all day.’ Does this show that the party is more than a joke party?

“We never regard our activities as a joke, more a good natured ‘think-tank’ that the other parties can then steal our ideas from.”

  • Do you think UKIP are stealing your thunder?

“They are welcome to it, however we will defend our sunshine & rainbow vehemently so woe betide them if they try to steal that.”

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  • Why do you think young people should vote for The Monster Raving Loony Party?

“Because they can.”

  • How did it feel to receive more votes than the BNP and have twice as many candidates as them?

“This was not a major surprise to us and equally not that important in the grand scheme of things anyway.”

  • Are there any plans to have a candidate standing in West Lancs (my constituency) at the next General Election?

“We certainly do and our candidate’s name will hopefully be a certain Captain J Reynolds!”

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Interview with George Aylett (19 Year Old Parliamentary Candidate and Activist)

At just 19, George Aylett was one of the youngest Parliamentary candidates at the last general election. Since then, he has been helping Jeremy Corbyn with his leadership campaign and has over 250,000 followers on Twitter! I was delighted that he was able to answer a few questions for me.

  • How important is it that young people take an interest in politics?

“The lack of engagement of young people in politics is alarming. The needs of the youth are being ignored by politicians, and in return young people choose to ignore politics. I got involved in politics was because I was fed up, fed up of what was happening to young people. Tuition fees are a key example. The Liberal Democrats won over young voters by promising to abolish tuition fees, yet they trebled them. This was the ultimate betrayal. Why is it that young people should be riddled with debt for the rest of their lives whilst millionaires get huge tax cuts… Because young people are seen as easy targets. Now lets look at the statistics: 76% of those 65 and above voted compared to 58% of 18-24 year olds. Those aged 65 and have seen their pensions triple locked, winter fuel payments and given free bus passes, to name a few. The fact of the matter is, politicians are making decisions with the interests of those perceived to hold the balance of power. Because young people don’t vote, decisions aren’t taken with their interests into account. Young people have had EMA scrapped, tuition fees treble and their age of retirement increase. The fact of matter is, if all 18-24 year olds voted, they would be kingmakers. Young people could be the difference between a Tory majority government and a Labour majority government. If politicians realised this, and young people used their potential power, then politicians would do everything they could to get their vote. Imagine the scenario: All 18-24 year olds registered to vote. They would be seen to hold the balance of power, you could even see the Conservatives offering young people free bus passes!”

  • What was it like to stand to become an MP at the age of 19?

“It was an incredible experience. It challenged the preconceived idea of what a politician should be. I believe all people from all background should be represented in politics. However young people have absolutely no representation in Westminster, or any other major political establishment. We need young people in politics to represent the views of the youth, and to give the platform young people so desperately need. We need to get young people voting and we need more young people running for parliament. I would encourage any young person reading this to get involved. Register to vote, look up policies, join a political party, get involved locally and, if you want to take the leap into directly representing the youth in politics, put your name forward for public office and stand for election.”

  • Why are you backing Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leadership?

“Because I believe he can ensure that Labour will be a party of government in 2020. Corbyn backs policies which are supported by the public. According to consistent opinion polls the majority back policies like scrapping tuition fees, implementing a real living wage and ending austerity. We have to win back voters from all across the political spectrum, including UKIP. UKIP won 4 million votes, we thought it would hit the Tories the hardest but it hit Labour. We weren’t seen as the party of working people. Yet many UKIP supporters are economically left. One YouGov poll found that 73% of UKIP supporters back renationalising the railways, almost 8 out of 10 want energy in public hands and over 57% want rent controls. We know Corbyn’s policies will win back those on the left, but they will also win back those who went to UKIP. The problem is we shouldn’t move right to win the 24% of those who voted Tory. Target the 76% that didn’t. Jeremy Corbyn is the person to do this. Let’s have a Labour Party which will stand up for millions, not just millionaires. I’m backing Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader.”

George Aylett with Jeremy Corbyn
George Aylett with Jeremy Corbyn
  • Could we see you as Labour leader or possibly even Prime Minister in the future?

“Not if Jeremy Corbyn has got the job already!”

  • Do you have any funny stories from your time in politics so far?

“I would say canvassing would be where all the action happens. Whilst out canvassing when I was a 19 year old parliamentary candidate I was told by many elderly voters that their grandchildren were out because they thought I was calling for them instead of actually asking for their time on the door. Animals also are quite interested with campaign material, you do get the occasional cat cuddle every so often but the majority of the time the animals use leaflets as their chew toy/litter tray. The best would be when a cat approached me on the doorstep, to which their owner replied ‘get away from him, he’s a politician!’. I think I won her over.”

  • How did you get so many Twitter followers?

“I acquired so many followers on a follow for follow (#F4F) basis, which a lot of people my age do. I have a lot of followers, but I also follow a lot of people. I gained a lot of followers tweeting about politics and I hold on to a lot of them because I follow them back. I think Twitter is very useful to get messages out to the public. Social media is becoming more and more influential. Many young people use Twitter, and getting young people engaged and involved in politics is always a positive.”

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Interview with Ben Bradshaw (Labour Deputy Leader Candidate)

Following the resignation of Harriet Harman in May, Labour are now looking for a new deputy leader. I was extremely grateful that one of the candidates, Ben Bradshaw, was able to take some time out of his very busy schedule to answer some questions for my blog. Ben has also been the MP for Exeter since 1997.

  • How important is it that young people take an interest in politics?

“It is vitally important that young people take an interest in politics. If they don’t then politicians, like the current Government, think they can simply ignore young people. So, it’s about making sure young people’s voices are heard and politicians have to take them into account. It’s also about supporting young people in gaining an understanding of how our democracy works and how you can make a difference in our communities. It gives me a great kick to see the young people who’ve got involved in my campaigning in Exeter and for the Deputy Leadership grow in confidence, as well as having a lot of fun. Whatever anyone does later in life, a knowledge of politics and experience of campaigning will be hugely valuable.”

  • Why should young people support The Labour Party?

“The Labour Party is, and has for most of our recent history, been the only practical vehicle for progressive change in Britain. All of the great social reforms have taken place under Labour Governments. Labour is also the Party through which people can channel their idealism in order to make a practical difference. At the moment, Labour is leading the opposition to this Government’s assault on young people.”

  • Which of the leadership candidates would you most like to work alongside?

“I could work happily with any one of the leadership candidates, and I believe that loyalty to the Leader is a prerequisite for a Deputy. That doesn’t mean to say that a Deputy shouldn’t be able to have tough conversations behind closed doors; but being able to depend on a Deputy for sound advice, while being able to trust in them is key. I also don’t want to be leader myself, which I think is important, and I don’t bring my own agenda or subscribe to any “faction” within the party. I’m not coming out for one over the others as I’ll have to work with whichever one wins.”

  • If elected as deputy leader, what would you like to achieve?

“Help us win the next election. As the only candidate on either ballot with a record of winning and building for Labour in a former safe Tory seat of the kind we have to win back in large numbers, I think I’m uniquely qualified to help us think through how we win again. I think I can appeal to all parts of our Party and all parts of the country and, also critically, out to the wider public and those voters we need to win back to get back into Government.”

  • Do you have any funny stories from your time in politics?

“Canvassing in Exeter once I knocked on a door which was opened by two young Thai women with loud music in the background. They didn’t quite understand when I said I was from the Labour Party. “You want to party?”, one of them asked, as she reached for my tie to drag me inside. I eventually managed to explain I wasn’t talking about that kind of party. I think I got their votes.”

Ben Bradshaw

Interview with Craig Jones (Young Parish Councillor)

It is really interesting to hear from people from all different political positions. I was intrigued to hear what Craig Jones, 26, had to say about being a parish councillor.

“Bit about me; I am secretary and former equality and diversity officer for Burton & Uttoxeter CLP, I was also general election agent to our candidate this year and stood for borough council as well as being a parish councillor and vice chair for Horninglow & Eton Parish Council in Burton on Trent, East Staffordshire.”

  • How important is it that young people take an interest in politics?

“Politics is everywhere. Every decision that’s made by politicians has an impact on the lives of people. The withdrawal of EMA (educational maintenance allowance) and the increase in Tuition fees are great examples, demographically older people vote Conservative and the young get hit with damaging policies. I wouldn’t have had a choice of which FE college to go to without EMA as I wouldn’t have been able to afford it.

We have an active and vibrant youth and student movement in the Labour Party which reflects in our policy but even that is still a tiny proportion of young voters and those who will be first time voters in 2020. We need to reach out beyond our party to engage as many people as we can in our democracy. For me citizenship education and votes at 16 would be great drivers for this, we saw huge turnout from young people during the Scottish referendum. I think it’s about time we had votes at 16 and was glad to see it in our manifesto. “

  • Why did you decide to become a councillor?

“A friend of mine who is also a sitting parish councillor suggested I joined as we needed new members and could be co-opted on. I went to observe a meeting and decided to throw my hat into the ring. I was accepted on and got to work!”

  • What does your role as a parish councillor involve?

“Parish Councils have their ears to the ground and their fingers on the pulse within their local community. We have close links with our borough and county colleagues to receive updates and give our input about goings on in the patch from town and county halls, we have to be consulted on planning and can put in objections if the application is unsuitable, we have drawn up a neighbourhood plan to help shape planning policy in our area. Most rewarding part of the job is helping provide grants to local causes and community groups to help them get off the ground or provide equipment. A particular highlight was attending a swimming gala and handing participation medals out to some of the kids competing.”

  • Why are you backing Andy Burnham and Stella Creasy for Labour leader and deputy leader?

“I’m proud to be backing Andy Burnham, the MP from my home constituency, Leigh, as leader of the Labour Party because I believe he has the passion and the vision to transform Labour into a party that will win again in 2020. Andy has continued to impress and move me with his passion for our NHS and his vision for that. His handling of the crowds at Anfield crying out for justice for the 96 and taking that to the cabinet to secure the latest enquiry into the Hilsborough tragedy. I’m proud to put my support behind Andy and will be working to make sure he is declared the leader of the Labour Party in September.

I’m supporting Stella for Deputy for similar reasons. She first came to my attention during her payday lender campaign and it struck me that a new intake MP managed to not only change her parties policy but the policy of the opposition party government. It’s that sort of campaigning spirit and experience we need at the top of the party. Somebody who just “gets” forming and leading campaigns and somebody who can get their argument across in their own way and that somebody is Stella Creasy.”

  • Would you ever consider running for MP in the future?

“I’m open to the idea of running to stand as an MP at some point in the future. Couldn’t say when though!”

  • How can young people become an MP?

“Standing as an MP is an enormous commitment in both money and time and can be hard work, especially for those with a family and/or full time work outside of politics. I think we should be talking about ways the party can support people from less experienced and advantaged backgrounds to run for parliament and become MPs. It’s not something that even entered my mind as possible for “normal” people until I joined Labour.”

Craig Jones

Interview with Lindsay Hoyle (Deputy Speaker of The House of Commons)

Lindsay Hoyle has been the Labour MP for Chorley since 1997 and was was elected as Chairman of Ways and Means and Deputy Speaker of The House of Commons in 2010. I was delighted that Mr Hoyle was able to answer some questions for me as he is someone that I enjoy watching in The House of Commons on TV.

  • How important is it that young people take an interest in politics?

“Politics is important to everyone but whether or not they believe that is a different matter! When I go into high schools and colleges, I am always impressed with the political awareness and maturity of young people in my constituency. Yet there are some young people, just like some adults, that feel politics and politicians are distant and of little relevance to their lives.

The reality is that politics is very relevant to every aspect of our lives and that includes younger people, from tuition fees to taxation, education policies and Europe, politics is massively important.

I really enjoy meeting young people, students to discuss these issues and try and crystallise the role and relevance of politics. Politicians and young people need to talk to each other much more!”

  • What do you enjoy most about being deputy speaker?

“Being Deputy Speaker, Chairman of Ways and Means is a fantastic privilege; none more so than on Budget Day when the Commons chamber is electric!

There are many things that I enjoy immensely about my role; I have met President Obama, Jimmy Carter, Aung San Suu Kyi amongst many other inspirational world leaders.

But I think the thing I enjoy the most is the ability and authority to allow backbench Members of Parliament to challenge and scrutinise the Executive and the Opposition front bench. That’s what Parliament should be about!”

  • Why should young people support The Labour Party?

“Of course, as a Labour Party MP I’d encourage young people to join us in the Labour Party, but I think it’s more important that young people simply engage with all of the different parties and decide which party most effectively represents them, and if they feel strongly then though should join up.

Aside from supporting parties, the real message is simply to go out and vote; that’s the important thing. Voting does make a difference, as we’ve seen in Scotland – the SNP mobilised a swath of new young political activists and have changed the political backdrop of Scotland and Westminster!”

  • What has been your proudest achievement in your time in politics?

“On May 7th I was re-elected as the Member of Parliament for my home town of Chorley, this is the fifth General Election I’ve fought and won; the people of Chorley remain my number one priority.

Chorley matters to me because it is my home town; the hospital is where I was born, the schools are where my friends and families send their children. I am one of the very few Members that represent their home town; I first joined Chorley Council in the 1980s and so I think my election in 1997 is probably my proudest moment in politics.”

  • Do you have any funny stories from your time in politics?

“I have many memorable moments from my time in politics; but one of the earliest was in 1997, shortly after the election. New Labour Members, including myself, were invited to an ‘Emily’s List’ Parliamentary reception, to which I eagerly attended.

I soon noticed that I was the only man in the room; only afterwards did the penny drop, that Emily’s List supports female MPs in politics. I had been inadvertently invited due to my name! As Johnny Cash sings, ‘Life ain’t easy for a boy named Sue! [or was it Lindsay?]’.”

Lindsay Hoyle

Interview with Natalie Bennett (Leader of The Green Party)

It is always really interesting to hear from politicians who are currently leading a party. That’s why I was excited when Natalie Bennett, the leader of The Green Party, was keen to answer some questions for me. Natalie Bennett has been the leader of the Greens since 2012, taking over from Caroline Lucas, and recently took part in two of the live TV debates for the General Election. Natalie also wished me good luck with my blog which was very flattering!

  • How important is it that young people take an interest in politics?

“Crucial: we need a politics that looks to the needs of the future, not just the present, and that understands the need for real change. It’s not only young people who can do both of those things, but they are more likely on average to do that.

It is no accident that government policies have been focused on the needs of older people while the young have been made – with the poor and disadvantaged  – to pay for the fraud and greed of the bankers, when older voters have been going to the polls in far higher numbers than the young. And that our last and current governments have, while talking about the need to tackle climate change, failed to take essential actions, which have seen us left behind while much of the rest of the world powers ahead.”

  • What persuaded you to join The Green Party?

 “I joined on the 1st of January 2006 – it was the result of a new year’s resolution to ‘do something’ about the state of the world. I’d never have predicted that it would lead me where it has! I chose to join the party because I believe that we need Greens elected in local councils, in assemblies and parliaments, because that’s where the decisions are made. Other forms of politics, lobbying, petitions, marches and demonstrations, are crucial, but without people who understand the need for real change at the centres of power, we’re not going to get the speed and scale of action we need.”

  • What have you learned from your time as leader of The Green Party?

 “Well I learnt before I became leader that there’s not such thing as “just deserts” in politics – results don’t necessary reflect the quality or quantity of effort. Since becoming leader, I’ve learnt that resilience is an essential quality!”

  • What are your proudest achievements from your time in politics?

 “Seeing Molly Scott Cato elected as MEP for the South West, in 2014, the “green surge” that has seen membership increase from under 20,000 years ago to around 67,000 now.”

  • Do you think that the TV debates benefited your own party and the other smaller parties?

 “Certainly. Voters got to know a lot more about what we stand for, our full range of policies, and the way in which we offer something very different from the business-as-usual politics of the traditional parties.”

  • How can The Green Party be more successful in the future?

 “We now have 67,000 members, five times the number we had a year ago – significant more than Ukip and the Lib Dems. The key is to ensure they can contribute in a wide range of ways, and work with grassroots community campaigners, unions and other groups to present a positive image of a Britain that works for the common good within environmental limits.”

Natalie Bennett