A new generation of young leaders is ready to change politics

At 25, Anthony Lavelle is bidding to be the youngest mayor of a major city in Britain. He explains why we desperately need more young people to shake up our outdated politics.

Ever since it was announced that I was on a shortlist of two to be Labour’s mayoral candidate for Liverpool, I’ve faced one question over and over.

Aren’t you too young to be running for mayor?

I usually reply that they’re asking the wrong question. Given that more than half the world’s population is under 30 and yet the average age of a councillor is 60, the question should really be, why aren’t more young people running for leadership positions in politics?

“When you are young, they assume you know nothing,” sings Taylor Swift, but the reality is Gen Z’s and Millennials not only know plenty, but they are also shaping the future and starting to make their mark in politics.

Whether it’s Finland’s Sanna Marin, the world’s youngest state leader, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman to serve in the United States congress, or Scotland’s Mhairi Black, who at 20 was our youngest MP since 1667, a new generation of young social democratic leaders is fast emerging across the world.

Plenty are still in denial about this. In local government there’s still resistance to the idea that young people can take on leadership roles. Many think you shouldn’t enter public life unless you have grey hair.

It’s this entrenched thinking that creates the frustrating paradox where young people are actually more politically engaged than ever, but still less likely to vote. They care passionately about building a fairer future but feel alienated from a political system that doesn’t represent or speak for them.

It’s little wonder when public life is so full of examples of out of touch leadership. Some of us may famously remember a judge bringing an Internet terror trial to a halt when he admitted he didn’t know what a website was. But the fact there is still a Tory MP in Parliament who refuses to use email suggests our leaders take a perverse pleasure in staying stuck in the last century.

In case you’re wondering, it’s Julian Lewis MP. He says opening himself up to “interactive online communications by email” with constituents could cause “burn out”.

This antiquated approach couldn’t survive in any other workplace. Our democracy remains stuck, out of date and unrepresentative – yet fiercely resistant to change.

Like many of my peers, I can see we’re lagging behind the times – and although I don’t claim to have all the answers, I believe my age gives me an advantage.

I’ve been involved in politics since I was 14. Then, as a member of the youth advisory board, I took part in the Council’s youth service review, helping successfully campaign to save youth workers from the cuts.

I’ve been a councillor for five years and know how politics can be an incredible force for good. But I’ve also seen how we need a new style of leadership at the top. I don’t buy into assumptions that politics has to be ‘done a certain way’. For me, it needs a radical shake up.

Studies show that more than a third of young people don’t believe traditional leadership models will be relevant in the next 10-years. They also believe that leadership is about empowering others. The ‘hero leader’ archetype needs to be replaced with a more collaborative model typified by openness, humility and continual learning.

My generation is changing the workplace and if young people are given the opportunity, I believe we could transform politics too.

We all know in Liverpool that’s desperately needed.

We need a mayor who will work for everyone, making sure Liverpool is the best place to grow up in and the best place to grow old in. For me, this is a challenge that starts with throwing young people a lifeline, offering hope and opportunity in every neighbourhood and giving left behind communities the chance to get on in life.

As we emerge from lockdown, thousands of young people in Liverpool are at risk of joining a ‘lost generation’. For too long, our leaders have paid for crises on the backs of the young. We can’t afford to make the same mistakes.

It’s time Labour owned the future again and grasped how the world is changing before our eyes. A new generation is ready to seize this opportunity, they just need to be given the chance.

Anthony Lavelle is a Liverpool councillor and standing to be Labour’s candidate for Mayor


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16 Responses to “A new generation of young leaders is ready to change politics”

  1. Other says:

    I’m going to sound like a negative nellie, and i dont mean to be. I first got elected as a councillor in the 1990s at the age of 22, im now part of the leadership of my council. You dont even know what you dont know. About life, people and importantly, municipal affairs.

    The examples given are of an MP and a junior senator. As an elected mayor your role will be holding executive authority. Think of the people who hold similar roles now. They have extensive experience either at cabinet level or commercial executive authority. As a young person that might seem an irrelevance, but it isnt. It is vital.

    As an MP or councillor you can observe, learn, and gain experience, but even after five years if you are not in the leadership role.
    Think about your council meetings, having to get up and answer questions about a whole range of things.
    The string to your bow was stopping some youth service getting cut.

    Thats great but if you were an elected mayor and someone had managed to persuade you from making that reduction say, it would now be your responsibility to find it elsewhere.

    The fun stops fairly early into any leadership role and it becomes a long grind of stress and attrition. Just because you see some people make it look effortless, it isnt and thats with all the experience in the world.

  2. Dave Roberts says:

    Totally agree with you Other. At 22 I wasn’t sure what I wanted or wanted to do. Another silly article I’m afraid.

  3. Timmy11 says:

    My first thought on reading this was “Oh good! Another naive professional politician! Just what the Labour Party is short of!”
    If you really want to do some good for the people of this country, why not use your energy to set up a company, make stuff that people want to buy, employ lots of people on good terms and conditions? Be an exemplary boss. Then come into politics in 20 years time when you understand how things work.
    I’m sorry that this will feel a bit mean, but if you really want to make a difference to society, this is how to go about it.

  4. Tafia says:

    Mayor’s are expected to make decisions and lead. MPs and councillors are not – they merely vote (usually they way they are ordered to like pathetic compliant garbage).

  5. Alf says:

    Look into Keir Starmer’s eyes and you can see his lost struggle with the misery of cronic constipation. You can feel his pain. You can see the broken man.

  6. Anne says:

    I wish you well – it is helpful that you have been involved in politics from an early age and been a councillor. However, sorry to be negative but a lot depends on who is up against you – ability, in my view, is paramount. Ability comes from education (life long) and experience. It is the person who can both deliver and serve their community best, because It is a tremendous responsibility to be Mayor. Youth does not always lend itself to this responsibility- there maybe exceptions. I did watch Nadia Whttome on Question Time and I was not impressed – felt her answers lacked depth – very lacking in experience. Likewise Mheiri Black lacking in-depth and poor performance. She replaced an experience politician in Douglas Alexander. So, best of luck, but it is a very big responsibility.

  7. Vern says:

    Good luck to you and well done for having the balls to have a go.
    Regardless of age though, specifically what are you going to do? This is what people want to hear and buy into. You are a socialist looking to replace a socialist who has left under a cloud…that might need some careful thought.

    Also, the examples you give of other younger politicians might be deemed toxic to others and lacking in balance. The mayors job is to reflect all views.
    All the best

  8. John p Reid says:

    Starmers problem is he thinks his views the moral ones the rest of the public share his views and find the Tories immoral and by just existing he’ll have enough of the electorate there for him, for him to say that it’s his burden as a rich boy to lead the masses away from oppression to this view of his of utopia
    He doesn’t get the Tories only have to be one thing to get elected- not be the Labour Party

    Other you’re also right we’ve had 3, 22year old councillors. Who came in too early

  9. John P Reid says:

    Labour lost the argument on every single issue in the 2015 general election .
    looking back to the 90s with apartheid section 28 and possibly crime doubling in the 80s due to poverty and Margaret Thatcher saying that the 2 Werent linked ,but even though the police federation said they were linked it was Tony Blairs abstract “tough on crime tough on the causes of crime which could’ve actually meant personal responsibility rather than poverty caused crime and then William Hague falling into the trap of portraying himself as the nasty party with his” let me take you to a foreign land ,I want my country back ,..asylum seekers are bogus “ quotes followed by Michael Howard nudge nudge are you thinking what we are thinking it’s not racist to say it’s racist

    then after the 2015 defeat ,we all were thinking
    All Labour needed to do to win was have an argument on the culture war
    but look at the Muslims are against transgender issues being taught to children at schools and it was left-wing people not into political correctness who were on the Muslims side and yet the left who the ones who said the non wood disagreeing with Muslim Grooming gangs were the Islamophobes, the ones calling the Muslims prejudice defending their kids not taught about transgender issues were just saying teach kids the 3 R’s,

    It’s not a left / right issue
    Labour having lost the Brexit argument convince themselves Jeremy Corbyn would stop Brexit at the 2017 general election ,despite him saying Labour stood on a manifesto to fully accept and implement brexit, the woke, wanted the culture war to just dismiss the working class and thick, racist sexist and homophobic by making up the false issues of sexism such as the old Labour working class feel woman’s place was in the kitchen only the white working-class are racist and the were lying when they said if a gay person who is a Tory, it’s homophobic if they disagreed with another one ,but they didn’t like them because they were gay rather they just didn’t specifically like that policy issue
    The woke say they felt as middle-class liberals had more right to tell the working-class what do used to have and also to insist the working-class should aspire to be more cultured and not to be proud of working-class culture such as going out and getting your blue-collar working job for a days work pride in place and community and the flag and natural respect for law or love for the country including the military as portraying the working-class as thick ,bigoted believing more middle-class liberals were prejudiced ,despite the patronising way they want to have middle-class people
    Telling the working-class how to lead the way of life was no different to them therefore their perception that the white working-class Christian ,trade union remain from working men’s clubs were the ones who believe the political views they should have a voice or was wrong to tell
    them what they should think and they will do
    because, in the past, trade union politics was dominated by white working-class heterosexual Christian trade union ,at working men’s club

  10. John P Reid says:

    Well said Diane abbott there’s no point trying to win back the red wall https://labourlist.org/2021/03/labour-needs-to-think-about-the-merit-of-any-legislation-not-the-red-wall/ there’s enough north London ex Libdem voters, to get labour to win

  11. John P Reid says:

    Ava Vidal just accused priti patel of racism towards black so men saying she hates us
    But wait a minute Ute I thought she said ethnic minority brown people couldn’t be racist

  12. Joun P Reid says:

    Basically 90% of tory voters would like the Tory party to be less woke and 80% of labour voters want labour to be more woke based on the fact that the Tories are averaging a 7% tory lead
    And 85% of Libdem votes want them to be less Woke

    Excluding the greens which apart from a good 27% of their voters were leavers are very woke

    There 13% at most voters who vote others
    The Tories sorry is is labour goes less woke then the Tories could lose its remaining liberals , but then as labour is endorsing to the woke agenda it’s gives the Tories a reason to be able to be less PC and not worry that the libdems will go towards labour

  13. John P Reid says:

    There was A Group “class war”
    Just realised the Culture war is a class war

    Why have they changed the name to A culture war?
    because the Liberal/ Left is in the side of the middle class and the Socially conservative are on the side of the working Class
    *Note I didn’t mention the Tories or labour

  14. John P Reid says:

    After the 1992 election When Labour expected to win but Working class Sun reading Basildon Essex Man, read in Britain’s biggest newspaper 10 pages of Lies labour was going to put the basic rate of Tax up ,when we weren’t and Voted Tory, As such the Guardian said the working class Essex man is too stupid to be trusted with being Given the vote, Like Stephen Lawrences Killers it was also the South of the river equivalent who were regarded as too stupid for their own good, with no qualifications
    When Labour lost general elections at least we could comfort ourselves we’d get votes at Council election times form people who wouldn’t vote Labour nationally

    it’s gonna be obvious when Labour Doesn’t win back the red wall or loses Council seats in Areas where Labour should keep them ( Chelmsford Colchester, The Med way Kent, Crayford)

    I wonder if Middle class Liberals at Guardian will hold the Northern Working class in contempt saying they’re too stupid to know what’s best for them (they shouldn’t have the vote) the way the Guardian sneered at the Essex man working class for voting Tory in Basildon in the 80’s and early 90’s

  15. Tafia says:

    John P Reid, I wonder if the Guardian and the Labour Party realise that their ‘metropolitan liberal’ position is actually one of the greatest recruiting sergeants the Tories have amongst the ‘suburban working class’. The Working classes values and beliefs are so far away from the Guardian, that they don’t view it as an alternative way, they view it as a threat. A paper infested with feminists, hippy-types, union appeasers , ne-er-do-wells’, apologists, softies, BLM obsessed students, police haters, peaceniks and other assorted rubbish who would destroy everything British that they value should they get the chance. So in the ‘working class’s’ eyes, anything the Guardian endorses is automatically wrong – including the Labour Party and it’s current comical beliefs.

  16. John P Reid says:

    Tafia good point

    As someone who canvassed for Labour age 13 one of 2 kids in my comprehensive school in Raimham Essex in 1987
    I suggest everyone watch this tory party broadcast
    As Labour were 2% behind the Tories a month before the 87 election and this broadcast with these comments
    That caused the Tories to be 11.8% ahead

    Even Jeremy turns up 6 mins 30 in

    https://youtu.be/vUPwQ-AxhV4

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