Meet Solomon Curtis, the 20-year-old Labour candidate from Sussex Uni
This will be the second time he has run for an MP position
Solomon Curtis, 20, is standing as the Labour Pavilion candidate for Brighton alongside currently completing his degree in Politics at the University of Sussex. Curtis previously ran as the MP for Wealden, and whilst he didn’t succeed at winning a seat, the votes for Labour saw a definite increase from 5,266 votes in 2015 to 6,165 in 2017.
As a student himself, Curtis wants to place an emphasis on policies for students including tuition fees being abolished and increased student loans for those living in more costly areas such as Brighton. We spoke to him about his campaign, opposing the Green party, and how being one of the youngest ever candidates may work in his favour.
How and why did you get involved in politics?
I grew up in Sussex, and I think from a young age I was very aware of the inequalities young people face. When I was at school, it was during a time that we were pushing forward for academies and I wanted to know what we can do to make a difference. That’s how I fell into politics and got involved. I looked at all the parties and realised that the Labour party was the one that fitted me.
Do you feel that your age affects your position within the election?
Pavilion is possibly one of the youngest constituencies in the country so I think that in terms of the demographic of the seat that benefits me. I want to see a parliament that’s represented by a greater range of MPs; that means people who are from minorities; different races, and more women.
The one that’s often forgotten is the millions of people aged between 18 and 30 who have a significant lack of representation in parliament. I think that if they had more representation within parliament we wouldn’t have seen the trebling of tuition fees or the slashing of the youth service. Having different voices in parliament is going to be a very good thing.
Do you feel that with the issue and conflict surrounding Corbyn’s leadership that his campaign might be affected?
When I was campaigning here in 2015, people said to me: “We want to vote Labour but we’re going to vote Green because we don’t think you’re radical enough, because you’re not anti-austerity and because you haven’t really found your roots as a radical Labour party leader.” I took that as an offer that I needed to come back to them with the kind of Labour party that people want, and that’s what I’ve done.
Did you learn anything from your last time running that has influenced your campaign for Pavilion?
I learnt how important it is to be positive, and that’s been really key for this campaign; to run a positive campaign. Also, it’s very important to have a local connection. Wealden is a place in East Sussex – I grew up in East Sussex and living in Brighton for the last few years, having a connection with somewhere and using that to influence your beliefs, your values and what you stand for is really important.
Is there any way in which you would encourage young people to vote and become more active in politics? What do you think of those who aren’t planning on voting?
First of all people have to register to vote, by the 22nd of May, but also if you look at very poll on the youth vote that overwhelmingly about 45 per cent of young people are supporting the Labour party. So if the 30 per cent who aren’t voting voted, Labour would undoubtedly win. Here in Brighton it’s the young people who have the voice as we are such a big of the population.
Even if you’re not going to vote for me, just vote, but if you come on board our campaign of “being the change” we’ve done that as part of it is that young people can genuinely be the change. They can change our country and they can change the outcome in this constituency in a way that we’ve never seen before.
How do you feel running against Caroline Lucas given that she has held the seat for seven years?
I know Caroline, we get on very well – we have some of the same ideals as well. I believe the Green party have done their job so far in holding us to account as the Labour party, we are hoping that they will support us because clearly we weren’t what the population of Brighton wanted, because if they did they would have voted for us. I personally think that thousands of people who voted Green will vote Labour this time.
How will your policy regarding student finance to cater for the high living costs in Brighton be implemented and affect the lives of future students?
One thing I’ll be pushing for is for a student loan which is calculated by the average living costs of an area in which the student lives in. Why’s that important in Brighton? Because we have two universities here, and it’s one of the most expensive places to live – we both know that. Students in London get an extra £2,000-3,000 per year because of the London weighting.
I worked out that actually living here is more expensive than for those living in central London. What I want to do is calculate the average living costs – that encompasses housing, living costs, food etc. – and to put that on a weighting so you have a median cost and you can work out that some places will be cheaper and some more expensive. Brighton would get an extra weighting which would give students an extra £1,000-2,000 per year to accommodate for the high costs that they have.
If we want to influence the Labour party, winning a seat like Pavilion will mean that the Labour part will want to listen to here if it’s a Labour MP. That’s one thing I will be putting pressure on Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister to do.
Some have said that perhaps you might not have enough experience to lead or run for a political position, should politics be left to the older generation?
I think we’ve seen what happens when politics is left to the older generation. Experience isn’t something you can quantify, so experience doesn’t come about over years; experience is individual to every individual person.
I think with what I have to offer I have experience that the other candidates don’t have and I have experience that other candidates don’t have. I definitely think I’m the most experienced for the job, the most qualified for the job and probably the best person for it but we’ll let the public decide that.