More young people should work in politics – my story

On Thursday 20th September I started my nine-month internship with the office of Tim Farron MP and the Westmorland and Lonsdale Liberal Democrats.

Less than a month before this, I was sitting in my University library worrying not only about completing my Master’s dissertation, but also about the fact that I didn’t have any form of employment lined up.

I never would have thought that within a matter of weeks I would have moved up to the Lake District and secured the perfect role working for a political organisation which I am passionate about.

Each day working for the Liberal Democrats is different. Sometimes I will be in the office doing tasks such as emailing, folding, printing, stuffing of envelopes, ringing, as well as other general admin duties included in my role.

As well as this, I also spend quite a bit of time out in the constituency doing jobs such as delivering, surveying and canvassing. The fact that the job allows me to spend time in both the office and on the doorstep, is one of the best things about the role.

A large part of my job is to keep in regular contact with schools across the constituency. My first big task here was to organise Tim’s annual Christmas card competition. By contacting the local primary schools, I managed to encourage 23 schools to enter and we received no less than 742 entries! After looking through all of the designs, I shortlisted the best ones for Tim to judge. It was a tough decision but we managed to choose a winner and two runners up, as well as a few special recommendations which included a great design of Tim as an elf! The winning design was then made into a card which is sent out to each of the 40,000 homes in the Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency in time for Christmas.

My biggest undertaking so far was to organise Tim’s annual ‘Youth Forum’ event. I invited each of the secondary schools in the area to choose 2 or 3 pupils to take part in a group discussion and debate on current issues which are of particular interest to young people. For this year’s event, I chose to focus on social media, mental health, youth poverty and homelessness, and Brexit. I believe that these particular issues are ones which are currently on young people’s radar and are extremely important both locally and nationally. We had some great discussions at the event, especially when debating the questions: ‘Should we have a ‘People’s Vote’ on the final Brexit deal?’, and if so, ‘Should 16- and 17-year-olds be allowed a say on this and future votes?’. I also organised for the event to take place during ‘UK Parliament Week’ in order to engage those who took part in parliamentary politics and to promote the importance of the fact that it is 100 years this year since women first gained the right to vote in Britain. Prior to the event, I set up a Westmorland and Lonsdale Young Liberals Facebook page as well as reigniting Tim’s Instagram account; both of which I promoted to the students as methods of local and national political engagement.

In addition to organising youth events, a lot of my job involves being out on the doorstep. Whether that’s delivering, surveying, canvassing or recruiting, it is extremely important that we engage with the local community both during and outside of election time. Since I started working at the Westmorland and Lonsdale Lib Dems, I have been impressed by their strong volunteer network and willingness to endure all weather conditions in order to help us to achieve our aims. I have even managed to recruit a group of students from the Lancaster University Liberal Democrat Society who are willing to come up as regularly as they can to aid us on the doorstep. We need to organise all the help that we can muster in these most challenging of times.

From my experience so far, I would encourage those who are thinking of working or volunteering with the Lib Dems to do so, especially young, politically-engaged women such as myself.

* Lucy Johnson is Youth and Campaigns Assistant to Tim Farron and the Westmorland and Lonsdale Liberal Democrats.

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