2 Apr 2015

Election 2015: the ten teenagers running for parliament

If you’re 18 today, or reach your 18th birthday in the next week then now’s your chance to make political history. You could become the youngest person to stand for parliament since at last 1832.02_solomon_w

Currently the record for the youngest candidate in a parliamentary election (or at least since the Great Reform Act) was Luke Wilkins who stood as an independent candidate in Erewash in Derbyshire in 2010 (and got a respectable 464 votes). He was just 18 years and 36 days old on the day of the 2010 election.

Read more: General Election 2015 – live blog

Before 1832 all sorts of people were MPs in their teenage years.

The 2010 election was the first, though, in the post Reform Act era for which the qualification age was reduced from 21 to 18, and it produced a handful of candidates who wouldn’t have been old enough to stand in the past. The best known being Tony Benn’s grand-daughter Emily, who was 20 when she stood in East Worthing and Shoreham. (She’s standing this time in Croydon South, but is again unlikely to win.)

In 2015 there are many more candidates in the 18-20 age category, and so far I’ve identified ten teenagers, though none are quite as young as Luke Wilkins was in 2010. Nonetheless, four of them will be only 18 on polling day, 7 May.

The youngest in 2015 is Michael Burrows who is standing for Ukip in Inverclyde, west of Glasgow. The great irony is that Burrows tells me he was politicised and energised by the lowering of the voting age to 16 especially for last year’s Scotland referendum. The SNP hoped that move would help the pro-independence cause, but Burrows is a strong unionist, as one might expect with a Ukip candidate.

“I completely understand those people who say I haven’t got life experience,” says Burrows who is studying social sciences as West Scotland College. “But I represent that part of society who are asking ‘How can I afford a house. Or a car? What career am I going to have?'”

The youngest candidate in England, and the youngest woman, is Laura-Jane Rossington, a student who is taking her A-levels this summer, and is standing for the Communist Party in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport. She handed in her nomination forms today.

Isn’t she a bit young to stand for parliament? I asked her. “Considering it’s my future that is being debated in parliament, I think I have every right to have a part in it,” Rossington replied.

My full list of teenager candidates in 2015 is as follows, with the youngest first, and dates of birth:

Michael Burrows Ukip Inverclyde 18 6 March 1997
Laura-Jane Rossington Comm Plymouth Sutton & Devonport 18 23 Aug 1996
Declan Lloyd Lab Cornwall SE 18 12 Aug 1996
Solomon Curtis Lab Wealden 18 1 Aug 1996
Lewis Campbell Green Dunfermline & East Fife 19 5 May 1996
Dan Wilshire Green South Holland & The Deepings 19  18 Mar 1996
George Aylett Lab SW Wiltshire 19 13 Oct 1995
Taylor Muir Con Rutherglen 19 18 July 1995
Jaspreet Mahal Green Ealing Southall 19 17 Jun 1995
Daniel Coleman Lib Dem Dundee West 19 17 May 1995

You’ll note that four of the above ten are fighting Scottish seats. There are probably several other teenage candidates, especially a few independents, but I’ve yet to spot them yet. Please let me know of any omissions.

Most of these candidates are either students, and in some cases were still at school when they were first chosen by their parties. Dan Wilshire, who is at Birmingham University, is due to start his first year economics exams the day after polling day. Solomon Curtis, who is black and has very distinctive dreadlocks in his hair, is studying politics at Sussex University.

And they’re by no means the only youngsters standing in this election. There seem to be ten or so candidates who’ll be aged 20 on polling day. The best-known is probably Mhairi Black, the SNP candidate standing against Labour‘s campaign chief Douglas Alexander in Paisley and Renfrewshire South, (who was born on 12 September 1994).

The Ashcroft poll in that seat, conducted in January, just before Black was selected, gave the SNP an eight per cent lead. So Black, whom I interviewed a few weeks ago on my pink Cadillac tour, could become the youngest MP since 1832. The youngest MP since then was James Dickson, a Liberal elected in 1890 at the age of 21 years and 67 days. Bernadette Devlin was 21 years and 359 days old when she was famously elected for Mid Ulster in 1969.

Who else might replace Pamela Nash, now 30, as the youngest MP – the Baby of the House of Commons? A second strong contender must be Robin Hunter-Clarke, the Ukip candidate in Boston and Skegness, one of the party’s top targets. He is still only 22.

The youngest Labour candidates in winnable constituencies are Vicky Fowler in Nuneaton, who’s 24, and Will Scobie, 25, who hopes to defeat both Nigel Farage and their Tory rival Craig Mackinlay in Thanet South. Veronica Bennett in South Ribble is 26.

The youngest Liberal Democrat in a winnable constituency seems to be Josh Mason, who is standing for Redcar where Lib Dem MP Ian Swales has stood down after just one term. Mason is 27.

Surprisingly, I can’t find any really young Conservatives fighting winnable seats, so James Wharton, who was elected in 2010 at the age of 26, may well remain the youngest Tory MP, assuming he holds on to his very marginal seat of Stockton South.

Update, 2 May: And I’ve just been told about an 11th teenage candidate – Harvey Hines, who is standing as an Independent in Fareham.

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