Tag Archives: Young people

IN CONVERSATION WITH: KATE TAYLOR

“Everyone comes with their own set of experiences and being young doesn’t mean you aren’t able to do the job.”

By Tobias Chalcraft

Kate Taylor is a Labour party councillor for Devonport and was first elected in 2012, in her late teens, before being re-elected in 2016.

In addition, she is the cabinet member for ‘Health & Adult Social Care’ on Plymouth City Council. However, while originally intending to seek re-election in the 2020 local elections, she has since decided that her career in elected politics will end at the postponed 2021 elections, as she seeks to prioritise her personal life and wellbeing.

In this socially-distanced email interview, we discussed how the council and her department have responded to COVID-19 in Plymouth, as well as her views on the Labour party leadership and being a young person in politics.

What role does Plymouth City Council play in tackling the Coronavirus?

“The virus has impacted on every service and aspect of the council”, Kate says, before explaining that COVID-19 has made the council “work very differently” in terms of varying issues, such as “homelessness, waste, parks, economic delivery, education and transport”.

Kate then outlined how Plymouth City Council oversees the coordination of communication and messaging, as well as controlling the infection rate in Plymouth’s 97 care homes via testing and support for staff. Likewise, the council has delivered care packages in the form of training & funding, as well as coordinated PPE, to secure the required protections for Plymouth’s care providers.

Local government has also taken responsibility for the government’s shielding programme via ‘Caring for Plymouth’, which Kate describes as “a collaboration between [the council], our healthcare providers and the voluntary and community sector to ensure that people are supported in terms of food, medication deliveries and emotional support”. ‘Caring for Plymouth’ has recently been expanded to benefit thousands of Plymouthians via the ‘Good Neighbours scheme’, which has helped both those who have been instructed to shield and those who have not.

Working with local partners has also been crucial to the council’s response to COVID-19, with partners such as Elder Tree and St. Luke’s helping with the formation of “innovative projects” such as the ‘Care Hotel’ and the ‘Care Home Liaison Service’. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kate says that herself and colleagues “have worked non-stop to ensure the provision of vital services despite the challenges.”

What does your cabinet role in ‘Health & Adult Social Care’ require of you? How has this evolved during the pandemic?

“My budget runs into the tens of millions and no two days are the same – I can go from discussing our budget, to opening one of our fantastic Health and Well-being Hubs, to reviewing business cases for new, fit-for-purpose accommodation for those with learning disability, and most recently, helping to coordinate our responses to the pandemic.”

Duties for Kate’s role include overseeing services for older people, mental health, drug & alcohol and learning disabilities. She is also the lead for Plymouth being a ‘Dementia Friendly City’, which the councillor described as a cause very close to her heart. Furthermore, as the figure responsible for Public Health, she chairs the Health & Wellbeing board and delves into city-wide issues such as oral health or sexual health services.

“There are lots of meetings – decision making bodies such as Cabinet, or full meetings of the City Council – or more accountability-based meetings, such as Scrutiny, where I am grilled on my decisions or my budgets! Amongst this, I still undertake casework for my own ward and work part-time too.”

Predictably, the Health portfolio at Plymouth Council has “evolved massively” over the last few months. Before the pandemic, Kate could “get on with checking in on the day-to-day running of services and set the direction for the authority in these areas by deciding our priorities and just getting on with it”. Today, she feels that COVID-19 has made her feel “like the spotlight is very much on [the health] portfolio”.

Kate then looks to the national level, “I’ve been keeping an eye on what is happening elsewhere in the country and I am pleased that, so far, the levels of infection in Plymouth have remained low. I’m not complacent though and work every day to ensure it stays that way”. 

You started your political career as an 18-year-old, who had yet completed her A-levels. What advice would you give to other young Plymouthians who want to enter the political arena?

“When I first started out, people thought I was too young, too inexperienced. That’s a load of rubbish”. Kate goes on to say that “Decision-making in Plymouth needs a wide variety of voices, including young people. Everyone comes with their own set of experiences and being young doesn’t mean you aren’t able to do the job”.

Kate goes on to outline how young people’s experiences, including her own, can really boost a political career. “I was a young carer and didn’t realise until I picked up the Health portfolio just how much I know about the subject from all those years I spent caring for my Grandad. Those experiences aren’t insignificant. If you feel you have something to contribute, don’t let people put you off.”

Having supported Lisa Nandy in the Labour leadership election, are you happy with your party’s new leadership?

Kate stands by her decision to support Nandy and says that “obviously I am disappointed that my choice of candidate didn’t win”. However, the Labour councillor then states that “ultimately, I am desperate to see a Labour government in this country and will back Keir Starmer all the way to achieve that aim”.

 “It isn’t enough to just oppose measures we don’t agree with, we need to set our stall and offer a vision for the country which people believe in, enough for them to vote for us. If Keir is the man to do that, then that’s enough for me. I feel hopeful that his election as leader leaves us one step closer to that goal”.

What is something you’ll miss when you leave elected politics in May 2021?

Kate starts by saying “there is a huge deal I will miss about elected politics” before saying how she has met “inspiring people” and enjoyed the opportunities that are only accessible from a career in politics.

However, she makes it clear that she will particularly miss the opportunity to help her local community – “I wouldn’t be able to guess the amount of people I have been able to help over the last eight years in one way or another, directly or indirectly, but I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to do so”.

what will student life be like this year?

Although it may still seem like a bit of a way off, it will soon be that time of year where we’ll be getting knee-deep in some studying again.

By Elliot Chard-Maple

With the next academic year on the horizon, we are all very much aware of the shift that is likely take place with COVID-19 still impacting our day-to-day lives. For new students, this might seem daunting, and that is entirely understandable. 

For returning students like myself, you will already be familiar with the transition to online teaching via the likes of Zoom. During these, quite frankly, unprecedented times, online seminars were strange at first. However, as long as we have our stable internet connections, we should be fine in the coming month. I will say, though, that I’m in the minority with an atrocious connection. As I attempted to attend seminars, my connection would drop time and time again to the point where it was impossible to listen in.

Fortunately, it appears that as of writing this, lectures will be recorded. We can only hope that seminars, should you suffer from weak Wi-Fi like myself, will also be recorded. Missing seminars due to low attendance is something that can be amended, but if you’re like my poor Wi-Fi and I, missing an online seminar would simply be unfair. 

But what of our social lives? What of the many students who are hoping to spend more time with their friends before they are launched into graduation and beyond? And what of the new students who have relocated, unfamiliar with Plymouth or its people?

Although social media has been our best friend over the last few months, it simply cannot replace the face-to-face experiences you can have while at university. Right now, it seems late-night drinking with your pals is a distant memory. All we can do is hope that things change in time. 

If you’re like me and are very concerned over how the university year will operate, I don’t blame you. I am about to become a third-year student and am very interested in how our timetables will work. Will we be required to physically attend university for seminars, for example? For me, that is an awkward position to be in due to my partner’s health condition. On the other hand, there are some people who just want to get outside and make the most of that wonderful university experience that may only come along once in your life.

Whether you want to be at the university physically, or want to remain at home to keep loved one’s safe, there is one thing we can all agree on: we all want COVID-19 to come to an end sooner rather than later. For now, we all must be patient and hope for the best.

Finishing Year 11 in 2020

Well that’s one for the history books.

By Annabel Jeffery

On the 20th March, schools shut their doors to all but a few students. “Exams will not take place” were the words that some rejoiced at, whilst others almost cried over. Two months ago, I was the latter.

I’d worked consistently from the start of my GCSE year, with my supposed first experience of exams looming over me from September last year. I’d seen GCSEs as a first step, but still one I wanted to excel in, the perfectionist that I am. I didn’t know what to expect, but this certainly wasn’t it.

Therefore, I was in denial when this announcement came. My phone buzzed with excited, confused and tearful friends at once. We half-heartedly “carried on” in school the next day, unsure as to how our grades would be decided and our futures looking blurry. Prom was put on hold (which we considered as cancelled), along with all of the other Year 11 experiences we’d waited for. In those final days we said goodbye to those we weren’t expecting to see leave for another few months.

For me personally, the uncertainty and unpredictability of the lockdown and pandemic has been the hardest part. At first, it was considered that we might be able to collect our results earlier. Now, the original results day of the 20th August has been confirmed, meaning a 5-month wait instead of the standard 2 months.

Moreover, these grades are evidently not what they should have been.

We still had three months until exams, meaning most of us still had more to do and further to go in achieving the grades we wanted. Whereas now, our mock results – the exams we’re supposed to make mistakes in order to learn – are being used as a factor in our final grade. 

I can’t help but feel extremely guilty for feeling this way. The pandemic is ultimately a far bigger concern. Sacrificing GCSE exams is a minuscule thing in comparison to NHS workers putting the lives of themselves and their families at risk. In some ways we could be considered the luckier ones – we get our results and carry on. The years either side of us still have exams that they are missing content for and some have only just gone back to school part-time. I’m also aware that Year 13 have got much bigger concerns over university due to their exams being cancelled as well.

Although, throughout these past few months, I’ve not known what to do next. Carry on revising? Start looking over A level content?

Like other students in this position, I’ve gone from working harder and feeling under more pressure than I ever have done, to doing practically nothing – leaving my brain unoccupied. The question I keep asking myself is: if to work hard means no meaningful results, then why bother?

On the other hand, whilst the first few weeks were a welcome chance to relax, I’m now starting to feel ready for a routine and a small amount of work. I thought that this was just my personality, but speaking to a few others in my year, similar thoughts have been brought up. We feel, and rightfully so, a bit forgotten.

Fortunately for me, my school has set small amounts of “bridge work” for each A level subject. This mostly includes reading lists and research for my subjects, which I’ve been gradually working away at, but schoolwork is only one element in school life.

Although I am someone who has struggled with anxiety around school and has not really enjoyed it, I find myself itching to get back. Seeing friends, leaving the house to study and having something to work towards are things that cannot truly be replicated during this pandemic. To be honest, whilst I’ve set a few goals, most days the most exercise I can do is running to the sofa.

But that’s okay, because all we can do for the time being is to sit and wait.

We can’t plan any celebrations for the exams we never had, even if we wanted to. But, for now, having a picnic with friends does the job nicely.

Life in Lockdown Update: amber weeks

Lockdown was easy at the beginning; having a few lazy days, thinking that this madness would only last three weeks. But then it got harder and longer. 97 days. 139,680 minutes. 8,380,800 seconds – and counting.

Luckily, lockdown restrictions are starting to ease. For people like me, who started this lockdown alone, being able to see other people makes an enormous difference.

I guess I don’t need to keep talking to my bedside lamp anymore. Sorry, Sebastian.

The worst thing about lockdown is the effect it is having on my mental health. It wasn’t at a great point before all this started, but I had begun making progress. Now I am back to square one. I am still struggling daily, just like so many people out there.

Life returning to normal is just as daunting as lockdown. I am scared about life going back to something normal. After so long, am I ready? Are we ready? What even is normal anymore? How will life change again now? 

I wasted the first few weeks of lockdown doing nothing but playing games and watching TV. Then I started trying to stay proactive and be constructive. That lasted a little while, but I soon ran out of assignments and I’ve now taken a pause from my blog. In fact, I have stopped writing in general – this is the first thing I’ve written in weeks.

I feel I have lost my voice, lost my fire. I have completely lost track of the days and do not follow any sort of plan now. I spend some days in bed doing nothing, but other days I get up dressed and find something constructive to do.

It isn’t easy. But with lock down easing, and hopefully ending soon, it is time to start getting back to normal life. It is time to start getting back into a routine.

I haven’t personally gone out and experienced the city centre since the shops have started to slowly open again. I did, however, experience going on a train recently. Just seeing how empty the station and train were was a completely weird experience, but it was reassuring to see most people following all the guidelines to keep themselves and others safe.

So, maybe we are ready to start appearing from our homes and having some normality back. It is exciting to see what our new lives for the next few months will be and how we will continue to band together as a society to get through this year together.

I personally don’t care that the shops are opening again, as I am a hoarder and this time has been good for me to stop buying things. I only really wanted McDonald’s and the clubs to open again. I miss being able to gather with my friends and relax together, dance and sing, meet new friends, and just be young and free.

Two members of my family tested positive for the virus at the beginning of the pandemic, and it was horrifying, but to be able to sit here and tell you all both members made a full recovery makes me feel so grateful and lucky.

The Covid-19 lockdown has affected everyone in different ways. At first everyone was enjoying the time, then the isolating nature of lockdown and the impact of how deadly the virus is really hit, which made us all scared and confused. But it is amazing to see how every community, big or small, has come together to help and support each other through this time.

It’s also great to see how humans taking a step back has helped the planet heal, even if only a little. It is amazing to see these positives come out of such a negative time, but they are important and should be acknowledged and appreciated.

Big Sis C.I.C reach £18,000 in community fundraiser

By Affinity May

Big Sis C.I.C have already raised £18,000 to support girls’ mental health in the South West – but they still need your help!

Big Sis C.I.C is a South West based organisation supporting young girls in their mental health and wellbeing. Their work involves ‘helping girls across the South West during and post Covid-19 to develop confidence and resilience whilst preparing for puberty‘.

One in eight young women between the ages of 17-19 struggle with suicidal tendencies in the UK. Big Sis C.I.C’s work with primary school aged girls is important in helping to bring this statistic down for future generations.

Big Sis C.I.C is currently raising money to launch its Plymouth Pilot programme, ‘Big Sis Mental Health Mentoring Programme’, in schools across the city. They have already successfully reached their inital target of £18,000 and have now set a stretch target of £25,000.

By donating to their community fundraiser you will allow them to reach two thousand and twenty girls in schools across the region and work with them on the areas of emotional literacy and menstrual education, as well as training 300 student volunteers to be mentors for the programme and pay for their advanced DBS checks.

This programme offers a safe place for girls to ask questions and discuss the topic of growing up. A lot of young girls struggle with mental health issues in regard to body image and confidence. One of Big Sis C.I.C’s main focuses is to ease the puberty transition period, as this is a crucial time where girls need as much support as possible.

The programme consists of 12 different workshops, focusing on everything from menstrual cycle education and body positivity, to emotional literacy, mental health awareness and games to identify feelings.

Alongside directly supporting young girls in developing good mental health, Big Sis C.I.C also equip immediate support networks with useful information. Parents, carers, teachers, and schools are all provided with helpful resources through workshops and programmes, helping them to feel confident in supporting girls while they go through the major life change of puberty.

The programme will also create local opportunities for young women studying education degrees to volunteer and learn new skills as a Big Sis Mentor.

Big Sis C.I.C have received wonderful feedback from the public on their previous work. Commenting on a Big Sis workshop, Sara, a mother, said: “it has transformed the relationship with both of my daughters, broken a taboo. I feel so much closer to them”.

Ten year old Lilly also commented: “Discussing periods with strangers was going to be the most embarrassing experience ever, but it was fun, I learnt a lot and I really enjoyed it in the end.” 

And Mark, a father, said, “puberty is a big change in their lives and it will affect their future and their relationships forever”.

Big Sis C.I.C’s Plymouth Pilot programme will reduce the uncertainty, fears, and anxiety that arise for many young girls as they enter puberty, as well as strengthening girl to girl bonds. The more money they raise, the more work they can do in helping to support the mental health of girls growing up in our city.

You can donate to their fundraiser by following the link below.

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/big-sis-girl-to-girl-mentoring

The Big D

By Annabel Jeffery

“Not to be too deep”, but death is inevitable. We don’t know how, nor when, but it is unequivocally part of the human experience – something that nobody can escape. It is beyond race, class and gender.

Evidently, the worldwide pandemic has emphasised this more than ever: over 40,000 confirmed deaths just in the UK, with thousands more across the world, including those who have not had access to life-saving treatment for other health conditions. Multiply this and you are given the number of friends and families to be affected by this for the rest of their lives.

Yet, our society does not talk about it.

“Loss” and ” passing away” are prime examples of this, with many fearing the use of the word “death”, in particular amongst those who are grieving.

While we may talk about the death immediately after or for a few months after, inevitably life carries on, leaving friends and family members of the deceased to carry on alone, also cautious of upsetting each other.

As someone who has experienced this myself, I decided to start a poll on my Instagram in order to gain perspective on this issue.

Here, I asked my Instagram followers , ranging from the ages of 13-55, with the majority being of the teenage demographic, the following questions:

  • Would you know what to say/would you feel comfortable talking to somebody who is grieving?
  • If not, would you reach out for advice on how to talk to someone who is grieving?
  • How long would you say that the “grieving period” lasts for?
  • If you have lost someone, has it felt different to deal with during this lockdown?

The results were varied: Overall, 50% said that they felt comfortable to speak to someone who is grieving and of those who said they didn’t, 86% said that they would reach out for advice on how to talk to someone who is grieving. Considering that most people want to help, the generally well-intentioned results didn’t entirely shock me.

However, the responses to my third question were rather varied, from comments such as “A couple of weeks”, ” 1 year” and “3-4 years”; to “Forever”, ” It never ends” and “You can only learn to cope”. The general consensus I received was that it depends on the relationship between the deceased and the bereft.

Furthermore, in response to my final question, those grieving during lockdown gave comments such as: “There are no distractions from it.” and ” It hasn’t set in, it won’t until after lockdown” and many agreed that being at home where most memories are made escalated their pain.

The truth is that grief for most people, while a collective experience, is also extremely isolating and does not have an expiration date. Unfortunately, it is something that nobody tends to fully understand until they finally go through it. This does not mean, however, that it should not be talked about. It is a trauma that, in my opinion, needs to be addressed head on, now more than ever.

This social taboo does not end there. Sudden deaths, like those faced by many families during the pandemic, mean that these important discussions do not happen and many questions are left unanswered. We need people to feel that they can open up about death, even during a pandemic.

So, where does Plymouth enter into this conversation?

In October 2019, Plymouth became the first “Compassionate City” in England. According to the local hospice charity St Luke’s: “A compassionate city or community is one that recognises that care for one another at times of crisis and loss is not simply a task solely for health and social services but is everyone’s responsibility.”

Places such as schools and cafes have since been involved in this, with the aim of educating as many as possible about death and opening up the discussion.

Are you ready to start the conversation?

To find out more visit : https://www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/plymouth-a-compassionate-city/

Life in Lockdown: Amber Weeks

By Amber Weeks

What is life in lockdown to me? You would think that was a simple enough question to answer, wouldn’t you? But it’s not. Lockdown has been weird – there have been days where I have completely forgotten about it and then there have been days that I can’t seem to get it off my mind. I have been spending lockdown alone, as my flat mate went home to be with her family. So, it has been a little hard to not go crazy and start talking to my bedside lamp like it’s a person.

Lockdown has been strange; I don’t know what to do with myself now, but to be honest not much about my daily life has changed. I suffer badly from mental health and can go days, even weeks without leaving my house, but as I started to get better and forcing myself to leave my house regularly, this lockdown came into place. I feel all the work I’ve done has been wiped away and I am back to being trapped within these same walls and inside my head again.

But instead of allowing this time to let me go completely insane, and to avoid talking to the appliances in my house, I have been keeping myself occupied. I have been having regular dance parties around my room for exercise and, unfortunately for my new neighbours, have dug out the Wii and the Sing It games again. I have been singing as loudly as I can, again unfortunately for next door! I am very bad, but it helps to get out my frustrations. I even tried singing High School Musical duets on my own – I would say it didn’t end well.

I binged watched Netflix, played video games into the early hours of the morning and just wasted each day for the first two weeks of the lockdown. But after being trapped inside for twenty days I decided I needed to get some sort of order to my life. I started going to bed early and waking up early, getting dressed, doing housework and started to do my assignments for uni. I even decided to start a blog and be constructive with my days. Even deciding to get out of my pyjamas and get dressed is a debate everyday as it seems pointless, but I can now see the value in such a simple task.

These days are scary and confusing, but it is hard to really grasp the serenity of it all until someone you know is affected by it. When this first began my grandmother was rushed into hospital for a few days, but thankfully she was given the all clear and sent home. But it wasn’t long afterwards that I got a message from my dad – he had tested positive and wasn’t well. I felt my whole world stop and panic wash over me. At first, I just thought that the media was doing what it does best and making this sound more dramatic than it is. It wasn’t until it affected my family that I understood. Thankfully my dad is getting better and beating corona. With him living in Scotland I wouldn’t have been able to see him regardless of the lockdown or not. However, it’s been horrible to know that if any of my local friends and family got sick, I wouldn’t be able to visit them.

I understand these times are hard for everyone for different reasons, but I feel this is also a time that people can join together with support for eachother, and grow. I personally am using this time to expand and grow with my creative writing and focus on uni, without the normal distractions. These times are hard, so to answer, ‘What is lockdown to me?’, isn’t simple. It’s a struggle every day to not allow loneliness to overtake me and let my depression set in but I also am using this time to be positive and work on myself as a person. I believe everyone should be grateful to each other for accepting and following the lockdown to keep each other’s families safe.

Life in Lockdown: ‘Life as a Quaran’teen’

By Affinity May

The dramatic change that the recent lockdown has brought to the UK is undoubtedly an incredibly hard situation to get our heads around. It has affected the lives of every individual – through the standstill of industries, manufacturing, businesses, job losses and the legal rules and requirements of every citizen. However one topic that the media are not focusing on is the effect it is having on teenagers.

As quoted in the World Economic Forum, a psychologist dwelled on the idea that this lockdown may actually allow opportunities for young people to get more creative whilst under such strict rules. Kayleigh Smith, a seventeen year old student, has started to develop a small business called ‘Smith Accessories’ where she sells keyrings and lanyards, mainly in Disney designs. Creating her own logo, planning the small business and how to get publicity, she successfully started up her small innovative idea. (Her business can be viewed on Instagram via @smith.accessories). There are countless other examples like this, but without doubt the younger generation are shown to be using technology creatively to stay connected, motivated and to keep their spirits high.

Teenagers, who in this age are profoundly technological and are coming into their identity, are regularly asserting themselves against social pressures. The lockdown coming into action has created a trending hashtag among teenagers – #findyourself – convincing teens to start working on bettering themselves now that they have time, and motivating them to focus on becoming their own individual. Teenagers have been posting body transformations where they show their small journey of becoming healthier through exercise. Scarlett Anderson, sixteen years of age, shared, “Since this lockdown started I began working out to start on my ‘summer body’ but as time went by I realised that I was feeling so refreshed that I developed a small structured timetable and jotted down my progressions of working out, I then got motivated to learn how to cook nutritional meals – both something that I would never have done if this lockdown didn’t happen” Scarlett is not alone in the idea of ‘body transformations’ – teenagers all across the internet share their ideas, plans and progressions. In reference to this there are lockdown exercise challenges which teenagers can do in the comfort of their own home while supporting each other. 

However, the social distancing measures that have been implemented have caused disruptions of future plans as well as daily routines. As of the 20th March, UK schools were closed to most pupils (remaining open to vulnerable children only, such as those whose parents are key workers). Over 90% of enrolled learners worldwide are now out of education. For teenagers with mental health issues these closures cause an inadequacy of connections to services that they may need to keep well. These could be facilities such as councillors, distractions, mediators etc. The charity YoungMinds surveyed young people in the UK on these issues. 83% of the students who took part said that the pandemic had made their conditions worse and 26% said they were unable to access mental health support. It should also be considered that an important coping mechanism for teenagers is their daily routine – including their school time tables and structures. Now there are no organisations in teenagers’ lives. Teenagers with special educational needs, for example autism, are particularly likely to become uncomfortable when their daily routines are disrupted and changed.

One big uncertainty in the majority of teenagers’ lives at the moment is the cancellation of the summer GCSE and A-level exams. Years of studying and working hard, but ending with no final exams as expected, can cause great discomfort to students. The unknown of the future is causing large amounts of stress and worry. Rebecca Hill, age 17, said, “Knowing that I may not be able to move forward with my future plans because I cannot sit my exams have caused so much stress on my mental health. I was reliant on my A-levels to allow me to move forward.”

On the other hand the impact that this lockdown has had on some teenagers’ lives has been positive. Now that they have more time to spend with families, relationships can be developed and strengthened. Many teenagers have found themselves venturing outside their room and interacting with their loved ones more than usual during the lockdown, most probably due to boredom – but maybe it’s allowing them to realise the importance of family. Saby Lenard, age 15, said, “I’ve started spending more time with my parents, especially my mum who has been encouraging me to create music, just like we used to when I was younger. I forgot just how much I loved spending time with them and I am thankful that this lockdown has opened my eyes to it and allowed me to realise the importance of family”. The majority of teenagers I spoke to admitted that they have found a new sense of happiness and comfort from being able to spend more time with their family. Some even regretted the amount of time that they spent on their phone or outside of the house, and away from their families, before the lockdown was announced.

In Conversation: With Rebecca Smith: Reflections on #GE2019

By Tobias Chalcraft

Exactly two months after the General Election that gave the Conservatives a large majority, we reunited with Rebecca Smith, a Plymouth City Councillor and former Conservative Candidate in the snap election, to look back on an outcome that delivered her some mixed feelings.

When asked about the election result, Rebecca initially provides a positive response by turning her attention to the national level. She started by saying “it was obviously better than we imagined or predicted”, before going on to add that the government is now in a position to deliver its manifesto without any parliamentary obstruction. 

Reflecting on the constituency result, Rebecca said it was “disappointing [and a] real shame” before highlighting that, although Labour were re-elected, Plymouth Sutton & Devonport saw a general swing towards her party. She claimed the result was “quite an exciting opportunity for the [Conservative] party”, as they now face the task of changing face in order to appease new voters that gave them their majority of MPs. Following this result, Rebecca sees the seat as now “all to play for” and hopes that Boris Johnson has Plymouth voters in mind when he speaks of ambitions to solidify support amongst his new voters.

Humbled by the turnout of activists from across the UK who came to support her, the councillor said, “In terms of what we got on the doors; it was probably the most positive campaign I’ve ever been involved in” while reflecting on invitations into homes to meet constituents, and seek their vote, alongside volunteers from the around the UK. However, there were some downsides of the campaign too, especially one bad experience in which a constituent swore at her, whilst holding their toddler. 

Looking back, she described her campaign as “strong” because of her ability to continue with TV interviews, hustings and door knocking alongside suffering from a severe headache for three weeks.

One moment that she found to be surreal took place on Christmas Eve in a Plymouth shopping centre, when Rebecca’s Dad pointed out that numerous shoppers probably voted for her.

Looking at why her campaign was not successful, Rebecca started by looking at Plymouth’s large student population. “It’s nothing new that young people vote Labour and older people vote Conservative”, she said, pointing out that her seat houses students from three universities. She added that Conservatives would only be able to win over students once they persuade them to “drill down into everything [the Conservatives] are saying and realise that it is going to benefit them”. 

Moving on, considerations turned to the opposition as she thinks Labour’s ability to adopt an attractive agenda of promoting “free stuff” for students provides a big hurdle for the Conservatives to win here. Her response concludes with claims that it is “trendy” to vote twice and that she believes the government should highlight the illegality of casting votes in university and home constituencies.

Once pushed on whether she believes voter fraud is being committed by students, Rebecca mentioned that “credible sources” have witnessed voter fraud from local students before saying “our system is open to fraud”.

Losing an election has a hard-hitting impact on the wellbeing of politicians with Ed Balls once likening the experience to dying. To help cope with the emotional, mental and physical impact of the campaign, Rebecca booked a holiday to California. After candidly saying that she was briefly “peopled out”, she underlined efforts of being kind to herself over Christmas, including time on the sofa with Netflix. It was also important for her to take time to process the multiple emotions of electoral defeat and she expressed gratitude towards friends, with similar experiences, that it takes time to reconcile.

The interview turned to the future, as we discussed what our former candidate will be doing to keep busy before the next election, due to take place in four years. “If I could fight a seat again, I’d love to”, but she pointed out that “ultimately, it’s a massive waiting game”. Nevertheless, instead of waiting around, Rebecca will be re-doubling her efforts as a local councillor for the Plymstock Radford ward.

In terms of running in Plymouth again, Rebecca said she would “definitely like to run locally” but suggested Plymouth Sutton & Devonport could only be won if Labour’s strong grip over students began to loosen.

It is safe to say that election defeat has not ended this political career, as proven at a point in this interview in which Rebecca stated “I like to think I’m not a one hit wonder with election campaigns” which certainly reflects the more driven and ambitious figure she has become.