Meet the RHUL students running in the local council elections

The Tab spoke to each of the student candidates about what it’s like to run in the local elections alongside their studies

Recently the media seems preoccupied with one idea: that most major political decisions which defined 2016, aka Trump and Brexit, wouldn’t have happened if the youth had turned out to vote in the same numbers as our older counterparts. On the flipside, these Royal Holloway students show that youth politics is very much alive, by not just voting but running in the upcoming local Council Elections in May. The Tab spoke to each of the student candidates about what it’s like to run in the local elections alongside their studies.

Ben Tozer, 3rd year, Labour Candidate for Englefield Green

When did you join Labour?

“I joined Labour in 2011 after the mass student demonstrations. Growing up with a Labour government and then witnessing so much funding for services being unnecessarily cut under the Conservatives inspired me to become political. During A-levels I ran demonstrations in my local borough in Norwich, and we managed to halt cuts to bus funding at my local college (glamorous, I know). Since first year I have been on the Committee of the Labour and Cooperative Society and this year I was elected President. I think a system that works for people is one that acknowledges that everyone has difficulties, that we all start on different starting lines and I want everyone to have the same opportunities I had under a Labour government. I believe in the values of helping other people out, of socialism, redistribution etc.”

Why are you running?

“I’m running because I want to be a voice for students, as the average age for local councillors is quite high. But I’m not just running  for the benefit of students, I want to improve the wider community, too; for example I want to make Egham Hill a 30mph zone. The Labour party this year have been focusing on protecting street lighting and I know students, especially women, don’t feel safe walking through the Green in the dark, and that’s not right. I also want to tackle rent prices in the area as so many people I know have been ripped off by landlords and letting agents. A friend of mine had to pay £400 in admin fees to renew her contract, which is ridiculous. I want to arrange meetings where students can talk about issues within Englefield Green because obviously one person cannot speak for an entire constituency… I can’t know every problem within the constituency myself. If you want change, just retweeting articles isn’t going to help.”

Jacqueline Fletcher, First Year, Labour Candidate for Foxhills, Thorpe and Virginia Water

When did you join Labour? 

“I joined the Labour Party during the 2014 General Election (Milibae all the way), and from there I got involved with campaigning in the Swindon and Cardiff area. I was also the deputy campaign manager for the Welsh Assembly elections, making me the youngest in my ward, and after that I worked as a case worker in the Welsh Assembly. I was a youth organiser during the referendum for the Remain campaign and met David Cameron (side note – he genuinely looks like a piece of ham). Recently I worked on Owen Smith’s campaign for Labour leadership, which taught me to grow a thick skin as it wasn’t the nicest campaign. But being part of the campaign and not always being on the winning team has given me a passion for fighting the side of the underdog. Witnessing refugee centres being shut down in my hometown and the struggles amongst friends facing welfare cuts gave me a desire to change things. I’d love to see more education on politics on campus, as voting even on a local level is so important!”

Why are you running, and why for Labour?

“I’ve always been drawn to the personal side of it; I prefer community-level politics, if you don’t listen to constituents then you’re finished. With Labour I’ve fought Conservative councillors on the cutting of street lights in the local area as it obviously makes women walking home in the dark feel incredibly unsafe. I also don’t support the Conservatives making international students [at RHUL] pawns in Brexit negotiations, as they contribute so much and kicking them out would leave a massive hole in the student community. I strongly support our stance on mental healthcare – under the local Conservative government money that was supposed to be protected is instead part of the budget and vulnerable. I’d love to see more accountability for the Conservative government.”

The Labour and Cooperative Society meeting MP Hilary Benn at the Houses of Parliament

Jake Short, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Egham

When did you join Lib Dem?

“I joined the Liberal Democrats in February 2015. I was involved in a recent by-election and the GLA elections, helping Caroline Pidgeon hold her seat in recent elections. Since then I have been involved in the Remain campaign here during the Referendum, and helped in setting up the Royal Holloway Liberal Democrats.”

Why are you running, and why for Lib Dem?

“I like the direction the party’s going in, sticking up for those who voted Remain – Labour seems far too keen to listen to the 30% of their voters who voted leave as opposed to the 70% that opted to remain in the EU… When the party said they wanted to stand in every division, I thought ‘I want to be part of that’. For the first time in thirty years the party is standing in every county division in Runnymede… If I’m elected then safety issues will obviously be a big focal point, what with the county council’s plan to turn off the street lights at a certain time. As the official opposition in the area the Lib Dems are already addressing this, so we like to think that voting for us is a way to strengthen accountability for the Conservatives in the county council. The more effective vote for scrutiny of the Tories is the Lib Dems – historically, we have always been the official opposition and we’ve forced a lot of compromise and taken seats from both Labour and Conservatives in recent by-elections.”

Will Coles, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Englefield Green

When did you join the Lib Dems?

I joined quite recently, in June 2016; before that I was a Conservative member. I was Conservative for a very long time, almost five years, and my involvement dropped once I began University. I’d thought about leaving for a while as I found myself at odds a lot of the time and after the General Election I felt the party was moving more towards the right while I found myself going progressively more left. As a Lib Dem I was a part of multiple rallies during the EU Referendum and I’d been attending local party meetings; I was prompted to run because in the most recent borough elections there was no Liberal Democrat candidate.”

Why are you running, and why for Lib Dem?

“Obviously for policies like the commitment to Europe, the reform of the private rental sector and solving those social injustices, but as a whole the Lib Dem policy tends to be evidence based, rational, and doesn’t give into an ideological dogma. Within liberalism you can believe in social justice, fairness and the environment. The Conservatives and Labour are still going by the right vs. left argument, which is an outdated, very 20th century approach. Referendums such as Brexit and the Scottish referendum look beyond left vs. right and seem to have more to do with individual values. Within my area I’d focus on housing policy; Runnymede lacks social housing and most student housing is poor to say the least. Lib Dems have always been the official opposition, I don’t believe Labour have ever had a member of parliament in Surrey, so the Liberal Democrats are the main party to affect change.”

Will and Jake Promoting the Royal Holloway Liberal Democrats

Search the County Council websites to find out the dates of each election, and remember to register to vote! If there are any student Conservative candidates running in these local council elections who would also like to be interviewed, please message The Tab RHUL’s Facebook page.