Harry Gorman is a 20-year-old student and a Green candidate for Prenton, Birkenhead. He will be contesting a Labour seat. Here’s what he said to the New Statesman about his aspirations as a Green councillor and coming into politics early:
Gorman is not the first student to stand for election, but those who enter politics early usually don’t expect much success. Gorman, however, is optimistic. While his “youth and inexperience”, as Ronald Reagan once put it, might be seen as an Achilles heel, he believes that in an arena of ageing local politics his youth might actually prove a benefit.
“Most councillors are pretty old,” he said. “I think that works to my favour. Some people I’ve met when campaigning say to me it makes a nice change for a candidate to be young.”
Gorman’s chances of winning look better than you might expect. From 2003 (when the current boundaries were introduced) until 2010, the ward trended Liberal Democrat. In the past decade it has shifted to become a safe Labour seat. But in 2019, amid the parliamentary chaos of Brexit and a surge in support for the smaller parties, a Green candidate won one of its three local council seats on a significant swing. That swing is something Gorman hopes to repeat in 2021.
On paper, Prenton is not your typical Green ward. Like much of Birkenhead, it has many red-brick terraces and hosts more skilled traders than the national average. The neighbouring ward of Birkenhead and Tranmere, which also voted Green in 2019 is as stereotypically “left behind” as Britain’s Leave-voting heartlands. It’s an area much less affluent than the nation as a whole, with above-average levels of long-term unemployment and deprivation, and a low-skilled workforce.
And yet in the May 2019 local elections, these two wards elected Green councillors. In the 2014 local elections, one in five of those that voted in Prenton had plumped for UKIP. What’s driving voters in working-class, red-brick England – the England frequently touted as fertile ground for Boris Johnson’s Tory party – to the Greens, of all parties?