At just 19, George Aylett was one of the youngest ever parliamentary candidates in last year’s general elections. Matt Gillow spoke to him about the issues Labour faces, and how best to tackle them.
“Labour’s issue is not Jeremy Corbyn; Labour’s issue is our lack of communication with the press, and our media strategy in general.” To have expected any other answer from George Aylett, Britain’s youngest 2015 parliamentary candidate and staunch Corbynite, would perhaps have been naïve. Even so, he makes an interesting point: “Our strategy seems to be to avoid the media, which doesn’t make sense. When you see Jeremy Corbyn in person, campaigning to stay in the EU in three cities per day, you see that he’s a fantastic politician.”
George has been, since day one, firmly in the corner of the Labour leader. If you’re one of his (nearly 300,000) social media followers, you’ll know he’s active in encouraging young people to get involved in politics to get their voices heard. For him, circulating figures which showed only 36 per cent of eligible 18-24 year olds voted in the EU referendum on the 23rd June were “heartbreaking” and evidence of an “endless cycle that needs to be broken.” Young people don’t vote, and as a result politicians don’t take them seriously. But is Jeremy Corbyn the one to break the vicious circle?
For George, of course, he is. Unlike 80 per cent of the Parliamentary Labour Party, his faith in Corbyn is unwavering. Aylett is convinced that it is the fact that Corbyn appeals to young voters that makes him more electable than his rivals for the leadership. Despite being full of praise for Angela Eagle, he doesn’t think she “appeals to the swing voters that Labour need to convince [people] of their vision” any more than a Corbyn-McDonnell duo does.
“Young people are the kingmakers in elections. We need to start getting young people to vote and it needs to start soon.” We don’t agree on much, but one thing we both can appreciate is the importance of introducing compulsory political education into schools across the UK. “Teaching young people about the world around them, teaching them how to vote and showing how important their vote is, can only be a good thing.” Naturally, he’s delighted by the prospect of young people voting in increased numbers; much of Corbyn’s core support consists of young people like him, and the re-emergence of strong socialist feeling is certainly more evident amongst young people than the older generations.
Whilst such strong convictions are undeniably admirable, Aylett’s devout support for Corbyn is amazingly unshakeable. When asked who his political hero is, he replies “Jeremy Corbyn.” When asked whether he thinks the Labour leader should resign, despite immense pressure from his colleagues in parliament and perhaps impossible odds against reuniting the party if he does survive a leadership challenge, he responds with nothing but optimism. When asked if he truly, genuinely, honestly believes that Jeremy Corbyn can win a general election, he instantly replies in the affirmative.
In fact, the only time he wavers in his confidence in Labour is when asked about the mood within the party concerning 2020. He agrees that Labour need to offer something for the middle class, which they “did not do in 2015.” He admits to worries that Ukip and the Liberal Democrats could be waiting in the wings to poach Labour support, should the party fall further into disarray.
Personally, he’s optimistic about the future. “I want to get stuck in, and help out as much as I can to get a Labour government in.” When he’s most emotive, however, is on the subject of getting young people to follow in his own footsteps in to the political sphere. “You know what the issues are. Speak up, stand for public office, make your voice heard. We need more young people in politics.”
For George, and many other young political figures, getting other young people active and involved in politics is at the top of the agenda. He thinks that encouraging more young people to be vocal, and stand for public office like he has, can only be a good thing; “young people know what the issues are,” and he believes that real change can only come from a groundswell of the younger generation.
We disagree on a lot of topics, but we can both agree that it’s definitely about time the political class started taking stock of what young people have to say.