Whilst young people are not known for their participation in politics, sixth former and Conservative Party candidate for Grays Thurrock, Sophie Corcoran, is certainly one of them.
Sophie is standing as one of the youngest candidates for election anywhere in the United Kingdom, as a borough council candidate. Local government is often the area that interacts with our daily lives the most, with councils responsible for providing most local services.
Speaking about why she decided to get involved in politics, she said:
“When I was little my mum always taught me one thing as I was growing up ‘if you want something done, do it yourself’ so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
Young people are usually the least likely to get involved in politics, and it will often mean that their voices are not heard. She suggests that young people need to take ownership “because we simply either aren’t voting or aren’t taking active positions in politics enough. So it’s our fault.”
Young people are often highly aware of social and political issues but are often unwilling to participate in electoral politics, meaning their interest does not translate into action in Westminster, local government or devolved administrations. Sophie said that politics has made young people “more aware of the impact that politicians and political decisions have over our everyday lives which has led to a greater interest in politics amongst young people”.
Yet, despite the growing interest in politics and the willingness to make their voices heard outside of the halls of government, young people are not translating this into participation in the electoral system. Whilst many blame it on a lack of connection or willingness from politicians to engage with young people, Sophie suggests that the onus is just as much on young people themselves.
“Young people always moan about how we’re not represented and that’s true but there’s no point in moaning about it. There’s no point praying it will change. Moaning isn’t going to get us anywhere. If you want something to change then go and make that happen. We have got to run. We have got to vote. I love my community and I want to improve It, so that’s exactly what I gonna go and do.”
Recent years have largely proved Sophie right, with increasing numbers of prominent young people making a change in politics. From Greta Thunberg in Sweden and the around world, to the Parkland School students fighting to change gun laws in the United States, young people are increasingly using their voice outside the political arena to translate this into political action within it.
“Politics is a game of winning votes. If young people don’t vote then they don’t need to listen to us and cater policies towards us. So, if we want to start being represented then we need to go and vote. Do the talking at the ballot box and make them listen.”
Sophie is one of the youngest candidates running anywhere in the United Kingdom at the local elections in 2021. Still a sixth former, she is showing that politics is not just for middle-aged white men, but that anyone can exercise their political voice by getting involved. Whilst some people still face barriers in the 21st century, young people and people from more diverse backgrounds getting involved in politics is the most effective way of securing change.
“In the words of Nike ‘just do it’. Tweeting or resharing an Instagram post will only get you so far. You don’t have to be experienced you’ll learn a lot as you go – trust me on that one. It’ll be stressful especially if you are running in your final year of sixth form. You have just got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s honestly the most fun and watch out for those pesky letter boxes that are on the bottom front-doors- they’ll be the bane of your life.”