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Not quite the youngest candidate – but a clear alternative for young people

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Announcing the final list of Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) general election candidates after nominations had officially closed on June 7th, we wrote that they ranged “on the one hand, from the veteran socialist ex-Labour MP Dave Nellist… to probably the youngest candidate on the ballot anywhere in July, the 18-year-old college student Adam Gillman, contesting Reading Central, who is a member of Socialist Students, one of the different organisations that are part of TUSC”.

It was right, it turns out, that we said ‘probably the youngest’.  Since the 2006 law change allowing 18-year olds to stand for parliament, the youngest person to contest a UK parliamentary election had been a Bernadette Sayburn, who was 19 years and 8 months old when she stood as the Green Party candidate in the Cardiff South & Penarth constituency in the 2015 general election.  Adam was born on April 6th 2006 – which will make him 18 years and 88 days old on July 4th – and was set to break that record.

But then the BBC published an online article entitled, Meet five of the youngest election candidates (at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/articles/c2qqy2760z7o), which introduced the 18-year old Pedro Da Conceicao.  Citing his mother, an NHS nurse, as an influence on his politics and his call for “more investment in public services”, Pedro is standing as an independent in Ealing Southall.  He was born on April 9th 2006 – three days after Adam! – and we wish him well in his campaign.

In the great scheme of things, of course, it is not important who exactly is the youngest candidate. Far more significant is whether the present economic and political system of capitalism that we live under can offer any young people a future and what the alternative should be.

‘Mock election’ signs

In that respect, the response to TUSC’s campaign in a number of college mock elections has been revealing.  The Plymouth City College hustings on June 21st for the Plymouth Sutton & Devonport constituency, for example, attended by 160 people, saw the TUSC candidate Alex Moore share joint second place behind the sitting Labour MP with the Greens and Reform (on 15% each), ahead of both the Liberal Democrats (7.5%) and the Tories (5%).  TUSC’s candidate in Folkestone & Hythe, Momtaz Khanom, also came second – behind the Greens this time – at the Folkestone College hustings, ahead of the Tories again and also the Labour candidate. 

Meanwhile Hertfordshire students wrote in asking for template TUSC leaflets and posters to stand as TUSC in their school mock election – rather than as “the ‘cliché’ communist party… doing it for a laugh” – so as not to misrepresent “a genuinely positive party by making our own imitations that could potentially do you all a disservice”.

The contrast in the attitude of young people with the last two general elections, in 2017 and 2019, is clear.  The Labour Party then, with Jeremy Corbyn as the leader, was committed to the principle that education should be free.  Labour’s Manifestos then pledged to bring back Education Maintenance Allowances for 16-18 year olds, to abolish university tuition fees, and to reintroduce maintenance grants for higher education students.  With figures from the Student Loans Company showing that the average sum owed by graduating students now stands at just under £45,000, there can be no question how transformative the implementation of those pledges would have been.  But all Keir Starmer’s Manifesto says is that “the current higher education funding settlement does not work” and that his government “will work with universities to deliver for students and our economy”!

And Glastonbury vibes

Reporters from the Swiss News Information Service picked up on this theme in their assessment of the mood at this year’s Glastonbury (https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/at-uk%27s-glastonbury-festival%3A-music%2C-sunshine-and-a-call-to-vote/82080783).  Reporting on the efforts of the Just Vote campaign at the festival, backed by the Labour millionaire donor Dale Vince, they noted the contrast with Jeremy Corbyn’s appearance at Glastonbury in 2017. “Back then”, they wrote, “many in the crowd treated Corbyn like a rock star, singing his name in a football-style chant. Starmer has since renounced the Corbyn era, and Corbyn is now standing as an independent” – and some festival-attenders will this time, they reported, “use their vote to back smaller parties”.

Including, it seems, TUSC.  “I’m excited about change, but I don’t really love the Labour Party”, the Swiss journalists recorded 28-year-old Ellie O’Connell as saying, “from Salford in northwest England, considered a Labour stronghold. ‘I think he’s trying to appeal to (Conservative voters)’ she said of Starmer, adding that she planned to vote for the much smaller Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition party”.  

They obviously didn’t get the ‘don’t mention the alternatives’ memo from the British establishment media – but probably gave a more accurate picture for it; of the anger, disenchantment and awareness of the need for an alternative that young people feel as polling day approaches.  ■

Adam, Dave, Alex and Momtaz are among the forty TUSC candidates in the general election, as part of a wider list of anti-war and anti-austerity candidates taking on the establishment parties – headed by Jeremy Corbyn standing as an independent against Labour in Islington North.  The full list of TUSC candidates can be found at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2024/06/TUSC-candidates-on-July-4.pdf



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