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Exclusive: Interview with Co-Chair of the Young Greens

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The Speaker talked to Hannah Graham, co-chair of the Young Greens. Here’s what she had to say about the group's aims and aspirations, as well as issues facing young people and how teens can get involved in politics.

 

What initially sparked your interest in politics - have you been interested in politics from a young age?

I actually became interested in politics reasonably late, at the age of 18 when I started to attend University. Throughout my studies, I became elected course representative and started to understand that I could voice my opinions to shape my education. After several years of representing my fellow students, I was elected as Vice President of my Students' Union. This was a full-time post for two years in which I acted as a mini-MP on campus, representing students to improve all aspects of their education. After finishing this post, I immediately joined the Green Party - as the best and most appropriate fit for my values and beliefs.

 

Favourite MP you have met, and why?

I currently work at UK Youth, in the democratic engagement of young people. Through my work I meet lots of MP's, connecting them with young people and helping them to campaign. Despite connecting with many cross-party MP's on a daily basis, I'd be lying if I said I didn't think my favourite MP was Caroline Lucas. Caroline has been an incredible force of change in her time representing Brighton Pavillion. She works alongside many cross-party MP's to raise new and exciting ideas, and challenge the status quo. Caroline is such an inspiration, not just within the Green Party but in UK politics as a whole.

 

What specific aspects drew you towards supporting the Green Party? Is there one particular policy you really like?

The one particular policy that drew me to the Green Party was their commitment to supporting free education for students of any age. Back in 2014 when I joined the Green Party, I attended a national free education demonstration in London, and the Green Party were out in force. Other parties have taken much longer to commit to the view that education is a common good and through education, society is richer as a whole. The Green Party has stood firmly on their position and even gone one step further, to cancelling student debt and reinstating maintenance grants.

 

What was the process you had to go through to be elected co-chair of the Young Greens?

To be elected as Co-Chair of the Young Greens alongside Ben, we first had to put ourselves forward for election at our Annual Young Greens Convention, where Young Greens come from all over England and Wales to debate policy and elect a new Executive Committee. Both Ben and I had been on the Executive Committee in different roles last year, and thought it was time to step it up a bit to go for Co-Chair! All members get a vote, and we were elected to start the role in November of last year.

 

What’s the best project you have worked on during your time as a young green?

One thing that I have really enjoyed working on last year and this year is our work around ending immigration detention. In the Young Greens, we have a campaign called 'People Not Numbers' which aims to erase the negative discourse around migrants and refugees and raise awareness of the inhumane acts of immigration detention in the UK. We have visited Yarl's Wood Immigration Detention Centre three times in the last two years mobilising Young Greens from local groups across England and Wales to demonstrate, calling out the torturous and horrific conditions that migrants and refugees are placed under, and support the current victims of the system and the survivors that have been released.

 

What do you believe is the biggest political issue facing young people nowadays, and what needs to be done about it?

I believe the biggest issue facing young people in the UK is, of course, Brexit. Exiting the European Union will have hugely detrimental effects on the youth of the United Kingdom. The potential loss of freedom of movement to live, work & study in 28 other states, enabling cultural and educational exchanges between nations. Environmental regulations enforced by the EU will be lost, meaning that young people will not grow up in a clean, safe and sustainable environment. Education and skills funding enabling a stronger and more skilled workforce and knowledgeable society could be lost. For many young people, they did not even get a say in their future, but it will affect them the most. The Green Party are calling for a People's Vote on the final terms of the Brexit deal - citizens of the UK, most importantly the young people, deserve a right to a say in what their future will look like before March 2019.

 

How did you feel when you were given the opportunity to write the youth section of the Green Party manifesto during the snap election? Were you pleased with the outcome?

The Green Party are unique in the sense that we have a separate youth manifesto, detailing all the ways in which we work to enhance the lives of young people. Writing the youth manifesto during the snap general election last year was a great honour. 4 of us on the committee painstakingly went over every word a dozen or so times until we came to the finished article. The manifesto went out to all Young Greens through digital form and some copies were printed in order to hand to young people on the doorstep whilst campaigning and canvassing.

 

Where do you hope to take your political career in the future?

You don't have to be a politician to work in politics. At the moment I work in democratic engagement for a non-partisan organisation with young people all over the UK, supporting them to find their voice, to campaign, connecting them with politicians etc. It is inspiring to see young people with such drive and motivation to create change and make a difference. Once I finish being Young Greens Co-Chair, I think I will get more involved with my local Green Party, supporting target Councillor candidates on the campaign trail, and perhaps become a target Councillor candidate myself in the future.

 

What advice would you give to any aspiring politicians? What can they get involved with at a young age?

I would advise you to not make a decision about political party alignment too early. You don't have to be a member of a political party to get involved. I would test out the parties that you are most interested in by going along to a local party meeting, campaigning, canvassing, meeting the members or the candidates perhaps. This will help you to make your decision. If you already know which party you would like to join, then get stuck in! Join your local youth wing or university group (we have Young Greens groups all over England and Wales!) or go along to a demonstration at the Houses of Parliament. Alternatively, if you're not keen on joining a political party at all - there are lots of youth organisations and campaigning groups who are non-partisan. Organisations like UK Youth will help you to campaign on an issue you care about, regardless of whether you belong to a party or not.

 

Thank-you to Hannah for speaking to us about her role as co-chair, and sharing her tips for aspiring politicians. If you want to find out more about the Young Greens, you can visit their website:  https://younggreens.org.uk/

 

 

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