Just two weeks ago 19-year-old Emily Hewertson hit national media after proclaiming on national television that despite years as a conservative activist, she would vote for the Brexit party in Thursday’s European election.
After the appearance, Emily has seen her social media following swell, with over 16k Twitter followers and many thousands more on Instagram.
We spoke to Emily about her experiences as a young person in politics, how she became involved in politics and what advice she would have for other young people looking to enter the field of politics.
What has it been like to suddenly gain so much attention in the media?
‘To gain so much attention in the media over a 40-second clip about Brexit has, of course, been pretty wild! I definitely wasn’t expecting this scale of response! I am glad it has got attention as I think it is an important message to spread and to show people that not all Brexiteers are the “50+ male” stereotype Remainers like to portray! I hope this encourages other people my age who feel strongly on any issue to speak out and not be afraid to break the mould. Obviously, with building a large platform comes the inevitable — a fair amount of hate. Although I am quite thick-skinned and the hate does not bother me, I do wish people would critique my politics rather than my appearance or choice of clothes!’
Young Conservatives are often made to justify their opinions more than young activists for other parties, given the stereotypical image of a Conservative voter. On her experience as a young conservative Emily said:
‘As a young conservative, I feel that often I am quickly vilified for my views by others in my age group. Lots of young people jump onto the “social media” bandwagon of automatically disliking Tories/supporting Jeremy Corbyn. In fairness, the Conservative Party do not help this issue. CCHQ are abysmal at trying to reach out to the youth of the party and it is an area that needs to make serious improvements. There are many young conservatives around the country who do not even have a ‘Young Conservative Association’ in their area which is extremely frustrating, particular when young activists from other parties have far more opportunities to get involved.’
What were your motivations to join the Conservative Party at the age of 16?
‘Growing up, political debate was always encouraged in my family. Ironically, my dad is actually a labour supporter however I refused to be automatically influenced by his views without exploring different ideas for myself. I quickly realised a lot of my values were far more in line with the Conservative Party — leading me to become a member (sorry dad!). I felt so passionately I quickly got involved with my local association; attending events and canvassing.’
Do you harbour ambitions to enter politics in the future? If so, in what capacity?
‘Since I was sixteen, I have always wanted to be Prime Minister! I mean, you might as well go all out…. right?! On a more serious note, I would love to be an MP however I want to gain a bit of life experience first.’
Despite being a member of the party for three years, Emily has concerns about whether she would be able to support the Conservative party again in the future:
‘My future relationship with the Conservative Party is dependent on a number of factors. If the Conservative Party were to revoke Article 50, it would be unforgivable. If the next leader of the Conservative Party was a charismatic, strong Brexiteer (Raab, perhaps) and secures us a good deal, they would secure my vote.’
How do you expect the Brexit party to perform on Thursday, what message do you think this will send to the government?
‘I expect the Brexit Party will perform spectacularly. People are extremely critical of The Brexit Party’s lack of manifesto/policy however this means if they do well it is simply based on the one idea that the British people have not changed their mind! It would send a clear message to Conservatives that many of their core voters are not happy with how they are dealing with Brexit and that no-deal should be put back onto the table.’
Emily gained attention for speaking against a second referendum, instead using Thursday’s vote as a form of referendum. Speaking on putting no deal back on the table (one of the only clear Brexit party policies) Emily stated:
‘There are very few Brexiteers who would prefer a no-deal outcome to a good deal. However, taking it off the table has ruined any possibility of a good deal — why on earth would the EU relax anything if they are fully aware parliament will not accept no-deal? Therefore, it is a key negotiation strategy. However, it is more than that. If May’s deal is really the best deal we can get — then no-deal should become the favourable option. I hate to say it but… no deal is better than a bad deal!’
Speaking about her newfound pulpit and what she plans on using her platform for Emily said:
‘Since my Question Time appearance, I have tried to use my platform as positively as possible. Despite having numerous personal insults thrown at me, I have purposely not got personal back. My main aim here is to encourage more people to engage in political debate, particularly young people. I don’t care whether a young person is left-wing or right-wing; the most important thing is that they are having discussions and debates — after all, we are the future! I am fully aware I don’t fit the stereotype the media portrays for a “right-winger” however I think that is a good thing. I am a normal teenager — I love nights out but I also love politics. I want to show people how exciting politics actually is and I hope someone like me, who doesn’t fit the “Westminster Bubble”, can make politics appeal to a wider audience. To other young people, I say — be bold, be brave and DON’T be boring!’
The Speaker’s aim is to inspire the next generation of young people in politics, on this issue, Emily offered advice to other young people who might be worried about jumping into the political deep end.
‘The most important advice I can give to other young people is do not be afraid to speak your mind. Whatever your opinion is, there is always going to be people who disagree with you but at the end of the day, at least you have an opinion! You also do not need to agree with every single decision your party makes — be critical and encourage debate! I also would encourage people to try and stand out from the crowd. Do not try and fit in with what you think a political activist should look like/behave — offer something fresh and exciting. To get your name out in the local area, try and contact your local party’s/pressure group association and see if they have any upcoming events or canvassing session planned. Often being involved in your local association will lead to some exciting opportunities, for example, I have met MPs and even went on a trip to Brussels to visit the European Parliament. Additionally, write to your local MP and ask if there are any work experience opportunities in parliament — this is something I did and it was a really exciting experience.’