Are the Tories right to field an eleven year old in the East Brighton by-election?

A very interesting debate has been triggered by councillor Warren Morgan regarding the suitability of very young candidates in local elections. He has written in a personal capacity (and he emphasises not on behalf of the Labour Party) to Tory Kemptown MP, Simon Kirby, regarding the selection of an eleven year old (actually, he is 18) as the Tory candidate for the East Brighton by-election.

He wrote: “It is an immensely good thing that young people take an interest in politics, and feel able to get involved and stand for election; it’s something I actively encourage. Labour has a number of councillors who are in their late teens or early twenties, often in university towns where they have studied.

“However you have chosen an 18 year old who left sixth form only this summer to contest an election to represent one of the most deprived and difficult wards in the South East. As you will know from your casework, although crime has reduced and the vast majority of the eleven thousand East Brighton residents lead stable lives with steady jobs, there are unfortunately some people in East Brighton who are dealing with the consequences of domestic violence, alcohol or drug abuse, and homelessness. They often lead what are termed “chaotic lives” and have complex needs.

“Despite working for the police for four years prior to becoming a councillor, I have encountered many disturbing cases in my decade as a local representative. I’ve met a young girl whose mother was brutally murdered by her father. I’ve been to John Street police station in the middle of the night to address the potential community consequences of a fatal car accident in the ward. I’ve been briefed this week about a violent and unstable resident who has been threatening to his neighbours, council staff and police.

“Next May the changes to welfare support initiated by your government will have a severe financial impact on many vulnerable people in my ward; both of our casework loads are likely to rise as a result. Some people will face desperate financial hardship. Their cases can be distressing. They need to have councillors whose judgement and support they can rely upon and trust.

“I am sure the candidate you have chosen has many positive qualities, though his decision to use a photo of himself in fancy dress to launch his campaign does not bode well. However I would question your judgement in allowing someone so young and with such little life experience to run and potentially deal with the workload East Brighton councillors face. Of course we will be campaigning hard to elect our own, very well qualified candidate to the post, but I would urge you, before nominations close, to reconsider your choice.”

Interesting stuff, Warren. The are a couple of things I would ask you to ponder over your Sugar Puffs in the morning. You appear to say that there is something inherently different regarding East Brighton, the area you represent on the Counci, compared to, say, St Peter’s and North Laine or Rottingdean Coastal (wards where Labour themselves fielded teenage candidates Claire Calder and Harris Fitch at the last local elections). All wards have pockets of deprivation and challenging issues. I am not sure whether East Brighton is that different other than, perhaps, the scale of deprivation.

And secondly, are you saying that an 18 year old is not capable of making the judgements required of councillors? If that is the case, I think Labour needs to change its policies towards the armed forces where, under Labour and Conservative governments, 18 year olds are expected to make far more significant judgements – whether to take the life of another human being on the battlefield.

My Pal Paul Perrin has commented: “I think an 18 year old is almost certainly too inexperienced (in life) to be a good councillor, but the law is laid down by government and the selection rules by each party. There are also plenty of older people who would make lousy councillors.”

I say “Good luck” to Joe Miller. Enjoy the experience of being a candidate but don’t be too disappointed when either Chaun Wilson or Tracey Hill beats you on polling day. Your day will come, but probably not until you can grow a moustache of your own.

20 Responses

  1. From: Chris Cooke

    To: Gill Mitchell


    Sent: Wednesday, 12 September 2012

    Subject: East Brighton by-election & “selection” process

    Dear Gill

    With regards to the “summing up” after my panel interview on Monday night it was evidently clear that you had decided not to shortlist me prior to the interview taking place.

    I wish you had been polite enough to ring beforehand instead of have me waste my time in travelling across town to what was in fact a kangaroo court.

    Your summation was in fact cruel, crude and very rude.

    I’m not going to bother debating with you about the several concerns you raised, suffice to say I found them risible.

    In particular as regards the 2011 Queen’s Park election where of the 13 councillors you have in the Labour group, my vote exceeded each one of them bar only yourself and Brian Fitch.

    It is said that you want to surround yourself with a coterie of “yes people”, and I refuse to be part of that.

    I will remain outspoken and retain my independent streak, and criticism will be made, when warranted, of Labour councillors and policies.

    Indeed, my role as a prominent community activist will continue and I will continue to work with both the Greens and the Tories, without having my hands tied.

    With only three candidates there was no need for you to engineer a shortlist.

    You should have allowed the East Brighton members to choose from amongst all candidates rather than personally handpick your preferred candidates prior to your members vote on Thursday. It’s called democracy.

    As leader of the Labour group you should be strong enough to field even those candidates that have their own voice.

    You need to avoid the short sightedness of selecting your “newest best friend” from an Executive Committee primarily concerned with feathering their own nests.

    I seem to recall how ill-fated it was when Caligula tried to appoint his favourite horse as a consul of Rome.

    As for myself, I will not be supporting the Labour Party in the near future, as what I have witnessed recently is both underhand and quite disgraceful.

    If this in 2012 is the state of the party in this city, then I am not sure I want to play any part of it.


    Chris Cooke

    • This looks like a serious issue so I apologise for the aside but… “I seem to recall how ill-fated it was when Caligula tried to appoint his favourite horse as a consul of Rome.”

      Caligula was making a specific point that he thought his horse would be a better senator than any of the current incumbents (he also used to threaten to make his horse a priest using the same joke). Rather than a sign of madness (which appears to be the semi-official reading) it was a perfectly calculated political insult which achieved exactly the results it was intended to.

      Mind you – they did assassinate him in the end (Caligula not the horse) so… point taken.

    • Dear Mr. Cooke,

      This is the 3rd time you have posted this comment – twice in the previous post and now again here. Bad move. It begins to show us why you were not selected. It hurts you more than Gill.

  2. I think the problem is not the age of the candidate but more the moustache and hairdo…….Looks like he was schooled at a different youth party than Conservative! Guten-Tag!

  3. I think there is lack of grace and careful thought with Chris Cooke’s email and it does sound as if it was a wise decision not to select him as a candidate.

  4. I was 20 😉

  5. During the last Labour Administraition (ending in May 2007 most ignominiously after their foolish King Alfred foray did for them), there was much angsting about how to get younger councillors and handwringing over the fact most councillors were over 50.

    Well, 2011 saw an influx of young and very young Green councillors along with a couple of oldsters like Hawtree, Jarrett and Wakefield after the by-election that brought in Alex Phillips (who once walked

    into BrightonChamber with her coat on back to front).

    One of the hallmarks of this Green Administration is the sort of emotionalism and instability one associates with youth.

    • Oh Valerie, you do have your knickers in a twist about these youngsters, (or should I say back to front)? Its called fashion, get with it.

      • It was her winter coat and not buttoned down the back, fashion-wise. Walked in wearing it back to front in order to use it as a blanket while sitting in her seat. Looked eccentric. She IS a tiny bit eccentric.

  6. To my mind this selection shows the contempt in which the Conservative party holds the residents of East Brighton. One hopes they will be suitably rewarded come polling day.

  7. I’m wondering whether the Labour Party making an issue of this is the same one that nominated Emily Benn in East Worthing and Shoreham Constituency when she was 17?

    Or which selected Liam O’Rourke at 19 to fight (and win) in Heywood North Council ward in 2012 (

    Or 18 year-old Kate Taylor in Plymouth Devonport ward (

    Or Jake Morrison in Liverpool Wavertree (

    • Unfortunately the Blogger(s) left out the last part of Cllr Morgan’s letter… I will paste for you what it said :

      “I’d stress these are my personal views, and not those of the Labour Party”

      So there you go.

  8. Chaun Wilson selected as the Labour candidate tonight. Will work hard to secure the seat.

  9. Hi bappy, think your quote from me is a little misleading – my point was that genaralisations are fine in the abstract, but all individuals must be taken on their merits so labour were 100% wrong to jump to conclusions about him.

    I see Joe is a third generation whitehawkian – maybe this is the real reason Labour are so upset… he seems to come from a background that labour pretend to support, but continually fail – they worry that they have been found, and the message will spread…

    I am pleased you seem to be taking a more positive note – you can save the negative comments for when he is a fifty something white male candidate…

  10. Lab were right to dump C Cooke(his email shows his lack of commitment to the party). As for young tory Joe he will learn much and may have his eyes opened as he goes round Whitehawk or Manor Farm.Good luck Joe as an aspiring politician but I hope you wont get many votes.

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