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16.05.16

Do we need more 19-year-old mayors like Goole’s Terence Smith?

The youngest mayor in Britain, and possibly in the world, was elected last week, with 19-year-old Labour councillor Terence Smith being promoted from deputy mayor to mayor of Goole by a council vote.

It may sound like a joke, but what Smith, who will serve for a year following the local elections at the start of the month, lacks in life experience, he clearly makes up for enthusiasm for politics and his community.

Smith, who is also an A-level student at York College and plans to go to university, told the Guardian last year that he got involved in politics after becoming concerned about issues such as tuition fees, and not even rain on his first day canvassing discouraged him.

“I’ve always been heavily involved in the community – through the Scouts, for example – and I just wanted to show the younger generation that if you want something from it, and you put the effort in, you can get it,” he said, adding that he wanted to tackle issues such as fly-tipping and graffiti.


We know that voter apathy is one of the main problems for British democracy, with a turnout of just 43% in last year’s elections, and that it is particularly bad among young people.

This creates a vicious cycle, because the more young people who don’t vote, the more politicians can safely ignore their concerns on everything from jobs to the environment, and the more disengaged the generation become if they feel politics isn’t for them. If people in their teens and twenties aren’t engaging in politics now, then the issue is likely to get more dangerous in the future as the older politicians and activists a functional democracy relies on retire and no one replaces them.

If more people like Smith and 21-year-old SNP MP Mhairi Black are getting into politics at an age when their friends are just discovering the joys of legal drinking, then maybe they can serve as an important voice to ensure that the next generation’s concerns are placed at the heart of politics.

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Comments

Rosalind Willatts   23/05/2016 at 14:31

What is the average and median ages of parish councillors and District/Borough councillors?. Surely the country needs more people under 60 on its elected councils. Where are all these potential councillors.? Youth can be refreshing and not staidly stuck in the system mind think. Are average and median ages ever collected?

Duncan Bhaskaran Brown   21/06/2016 at 00:47

Hello Rosalind. You will find some fascinating stats about councillors here. http://www.local.gov.uk/documents/10180/5854661/National+Census+of+Local+Authority+Councillors+2013+-+full+report.pdf/886cab3b-146b-4160-a548-d40c17bdfbfc It reveals that the average local authority councillor is 60.2 years old. At TheCivicCoach.com we keep a very close eye on Mayors and Council Chairs and we are happy to say they are getting younger. Not quite as young as Terence but much younger than you'd expect.

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