James caught up with Sian Bayley of the Surrey Comet…
A politics student at Royal Holloway, University of London, is believed to be the youngest candidate running to be an MP in London.
James Giles, 19, is a first-year student and plans on campaigning between lectures and seminars in an effort to become an independent MP for Kingston and Surbiton.
Although he hasn’t told his tutors about that yet.
He faces a near impossible task against Deputy Liberal Democrat Leader and current MP, Ed Davey, and the Conservative candidate Aphra Brandreth, daughter of the former conservative MP and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth.
But Local Democracy Reporter Sian Bayley caught up with James to find out more about his campaign, and why he thinks this election is all to play for.
Despite being born in 2000, James is no stranger to politics as a well-known local campaigner and regular figure at Kingston Council meetings.
At just 14 years old he was leading a campaign to save his local post office, and has gone on to run campaigns to “save the Fountain roundabout, secure the future of New Malden Leisure Centre, and scrap the proposals for a Controlled Parking Zone charge hike.”
He said: “While age is a factor, ultimately it has to be on experience. And on experience I have been campaigning here for over half a decade, and I think my record speaks for itself.
“I think more and more young people are getting involved, particularly in the age of social media and the web. Information is far more accessible now, in many different formats for them to understand, and I think that’s great to see, and I think we should be engaging people from all walks of life, and all ages and backgrounds to stand up and be counted.”
However, this means he has already been subject to abuse and attacks on social media, like many of his better-known opponents.
“I’ve been called a t**t, a p***k, even a c**t. By various people of different political persuasions,” he said.
“I’ve had residents who have said, ‘I will leaflet for you but in such a polarised atmosphere I don’t want to door knock.’
“It’s a real shame that people who want to stand up and be counted don’t feel able to, or supported to. That needs to stop. Personal abuse is never OK. At the end of the day, anyone who has the courage to put their head above the parapet and stand should be commended for that.”
Growing up on an “overcrowded council estate” James believes he can offer a different perspective in his proposals for Kingston.
“For 11 years our family were on the housing register waiting for a larger property because we were overcrowded. With a single mum receiving housing benefit as a means of support while also working and supporting the family. But 11 years and we got absolutely nowhere because there is not enough council housing in Kingston.”
He is also campaigning to increase the number of police on the streets, supporting local schools being hit by cuts, standing up for the local hospital and the NHS, and supporting the high street.
But surely he doesn’t stand much of a chance against such well-known figures as Ed Davey and Aphra Brandreth, especially in an election so focused on Brexit?
“I think this is the most volatile election there’s ever been,” he said.
“In an election like this absolutely nothing is out of the question. We’ve had a Conservative representative, we’ve had a Liberal Democrat, and I think the sort of tribal party politics of the past has failed.
“I think if you look towards the EU election results, where the Conservatives came fourth and Labour came fifth, I think it’s really clear that people aren’t sticking to their old party politics anymore. Frankly anything could happen, so I’m in it to win it.”
On Brexit he says that “business wants certainty,” and while James is heavily remain, he would like to see a deal.
“My view opposes a hard Brexit, which would be really bad for Kingston,” he said.
James has an old head on young shoulders. He speaks enthusiastically about his favourite television show The Apprentice (he doesn’t want Ryan-Mark or Lottie Lion to win), a soft-spot for the political comedy The Thick of It and ginger snap biscuits that “don’t go soggy when you dip them in your tea.”
With a rescued pet cat called “friendly cat” and a real passion for local democracy at the local Guildhall, he is unlike most 19-year-olds.
But James insists he does not want to be a politician in the long-term, he just wants to make a difference:
“From a young age mum always taught me if you can help someone you should.
“My track record at the council has always been to seek the best decision for local people, but make sure, most importantly, that all decisions are transparent and done with honesty and integrity.”
He hopes his campaign will do just that.
(Even if it does mean he will have to catch-up on his studies in the new year if he doesn’t get elected!)