A senior Labour councillor has criticised the Conservatives for choosing an 18-year-old to stand in the East Brighton by-election next month.
Councillor Morgan, deputy leader of the Labour group on Brighton and Hove City Council, questioned “the judgment in allowing someone so young and with such little life experience to run and potentially deal with the workload East Brighton councillors face”.
He said: “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 11,000 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 judgment 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 judgment 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.
“The electors and communities of East Brighton will surely question how seriously the Conservative Party takes them if this is the person they believe is best qualified to work on their behalf.
“I’d stress these are my personal views and not those of the Labour Party.”
Mr Kirby said that Councillor Morgan’s remarks were ageist.
He said: “We should be encouraging young people to become involved in politics and I am absolutely delighted to have such a competent candidate in Joe Miller.
“Young people in East Brighton and across the country are paying the price for Labour’s disastrous handling of the economy and so it is unsurprising many of them are politically active.
“Ageism is still seen as acceptable by some people and that is deeply regrettable.
“I am certain Joe would make an excellent councillor, he would be a breath of fresh air on the council and has strong local connections to the area.
“When I was first elected to represent the people of Brighton in 1992 I remember I was the youngest councillor by about 30 years but it did not stop me representing constituents who contacted me with issues, often very serious.
“People are asking what message this sends to young Labour activists, if senior councillors have the kind of attitude that says, ‘you can pay your subscriptions but of course we don’t think you are capable of representing us’.
“I suspect Councillor Morgan was not so outspoken against young people when Emily Sophia Wedgwood Benn stood for the Labour Party at such a young age (at the last general election).”
At the local elections in Brighton and Hove last year the Labour Party fielded 18-year-old Clare Calder, who has since started a degree course at university.
The by-election in East Brighton, a safe Labour seat, was triggered by the resignation of Councillor Craig Turton because of ill health.
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.