Meet the Glasgow Fresher who could be your next MP, who doesn’t think the SNP has much of a chance
‘I’m a great lover of arguing and Westminster would be a fantastic venue’
For most Glasgow first years, the end of May exams signifies time to relax and the start of a ridiculously long summer. However for one politics student, the hard work is not yet complete.
Contesting the Glasgow South-West constituency for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, 19-year-old Ben Denton-Cardew is one of the youngest candidates in the upcoming General Election. Despite his youth, Ben is actually rather experienced in politics, as we learned when we sat down with him.
What motivated you to get involved in politics?
“Originally I’m from Suffolk and I got involved because I wanted to make a change. I was a member of the Youth Parliament for 2015-16 and essentially I noticed that my local railway station had no disabled access. This was incredibly frustrating for many in the community.
“So, I wrote to my local MP and he said that we had to work together on this issue. Together, we delivered a ramp for the station, the first real change I made as a politician.”
Given your youth, what makes you stand out as a candidate compared to someone perhaps with more life experience?
“I actually don’t buy the life experience tag because I’ve been lucky enough to build up experience that is as good, if not better than my rival candidates. More importantly, however, I am a great believer in talking to people. People may say one thing to politicians but they may care about other issues.
“Take for example mental health. It’s a topic that affects many young people yet a lot I’m sure would be unwilling to talk to their MP about that. As a young person I want to talk directly to people and hear what they specifically would like to change.”
What policies do you view as being important for those specifically in your constituency?
“When I ran for Councillor [in May 2017] I made some really key pledges. I talked a lot about transport; Glasgow South-West is one of the least-well connected areas in the city… A lot of the railway remains disused after closing in the 1960s but if the track was reopened from Cardonald we would get a direct north-south link in the area.
What affect do you believe Labour’s policy of scrapping tuition fees from August will have on the way students in Glasgow will choose to vote?
“Obviously this is a really interesting policy and that definitely could persuade a lot to now vote for him. But the question is whether this will be enough for many to choose to vote for Jeremy Corbyn over Theresa May, given how important choosing our next Prime Minister has become.”
What other policies do you think will be of interest to students in Glasgow?
“I think probably Erasmus will play a big role. Crucially the Liberal Democrats have been the only party to commit to saving Erasmus; Labour have practically given up on it, the Tories have said no, UKIP are irrelevant and the Green’s aren’t even standing in most Glasgow constituencies. The SNP meanwhile have been fairly unclear on the policy.
Meanwhile we believe it is crucial we bring back maintenance grants to students. The scrapping of tuition fees favours some more than others whilst the current system is just deeply unfair.”
So how do you reckon they will vote?
“Here’s a rather unpopular view but I think they’re going to largely vote Conservative. Ruth Davidson is someone who appeals to many as a good leader. In terms of tactical voting, although young people are actually less likely to vote tactically, the roll of the SNP in Scotland does change that, and so I feel that many will vote for the Conservatives as a vote against the SNP.”
And lastly, how do you fancy your chances come June 8th?
“Well last time we polled 1% which is not great really… but I feel like we are making strides and I fully intend to return by deposit this time. I do not expect to win, but I believe the Lib Dems will win up to five more seats in Scotland. With the other parties picking up seats, I predict the SNP will lose up to half of their seats.”
Given the strong SNP support in his constituency, Ben’s chances of a summer job with a difference appear unlikely. However he admitted this whole campaign has been a great experience as he dips his toes into the world of mainstream politics and the first step on the long road which ultimately may lead to Westminster.