INTERVIEW: Luke Holland wants to be Birmingham’s youngest councillor
17-year-old teenager Luke Holland plans on standing in the council elections next May, as an independent candidate for the Moseley and Kings Heath ward in Birmingham.
I Am Birmingham reporter Adam Yosef was invited to meet up with the young aspiring politician to find out why…
So Luke, you’re from Moseley and Kings Heath, you’re 17 and you’re standing as an election candidate in next year’s local council elections. How did this come about?
I decided to stand as an independent councillor because of the way politics is nowadays and of how disillusioned a lot of the public are, and I thought if I want to make a difference then why not stand myself? If you want a shot and you want to try and make something better, then put your head above the parapet and stand and see what comes about of it.
I feel that even unelected anyone can get anything done. If we wanted to get the roads safer, we could put a petition forward but I wanted to do something more than that. I wanted to change the whole of Birmingham, and whatever works well, I’d want to implement it throughout Birmingham.
Now, you’re not standing for a political party, you’re standing as an independent, but you do support some of the policies and views of other parties; so what made you not want to go with one of the traditional mainstream political parties?
MPs expenses scandal really and the farce that it was. How ridiculous and how much of a mick-take it was that they used our money to buy duck houses and… [laughs] and I thought, well let’s not get associated with that, let’s just be independent, let’s not have any ties to anyone.
If I’m in a debate and I’m like, well, “Labour did this, Conservatives did this, you did this, you didn’t do this, you said this, you said that, you sold out…” people don’t really care. People don’t like party politics and I feel to achieve by not participating in party politics, don’t stand for a party. Just be myself representing the residents as an independent.
As an independent I don’t have to please a party leader, I don’t have to do anything for a party funder, it’s me speaking on behalf of the resident and that’s the way it should be.
LISTEN: Interview | Luke Holland to stand in 2015 local council elections
What are some of the things you, as an independent candidate, are standing for?
Well, I’ve got quite a few issues that I’ve been working on. One of the issues is cleaner streets which is an issue that affects most people in Moseley and Kings Heath, with the recent spending cuts, a lot of services have gone. The streets were looking dirtier before and now they are looking terrible. In Balsall Heath for example they are a real mess and the council aren’t really taking a stand, they’re walking straight past it because it’s not on their doorstep, it’s not outside the Council House.
For example, if we went to dump a load of green waste bags outside the Council House, they would be picked up straight away yet if you leave 60 in the street they don’t pick it up. They put a little sticker on saying ‘this won’t be collected’. Instead of offering advice about home composting and wormories, they’ve just missed that opportunity.
“How I’m different is I’m independent, I don’t have ties to any party, I don’t have to pass any [orders on].”
If you don’t want people to fly-tip green waste then tell them how to compose off a compost incentive scheme but they’re not doing that. That’s where I feel I can bring in a young person’s perspective and just be like “Hey, think about it differently”, and things like that.
Also, for the cleaner streets, I would use all of my council allowance to fund things in the ward. So, if there was an alley next to a block of flats that was constantly being fly-tipped, I would use the council allowance. So if the residents wanted gates put there or if they wanted bins or no fly-tipping times, it’s their choice so I would communicate with them and the council and I would use the council allowance to pay for that which is what I feel it should be used for.
Alongside recycling and cleaner street, you’re campaign for tenants’ rights. Tell us about that and why that’s interested you.
Well, a lot of people in Moseley and Kings Heath rent, I myself rent, and a big problem is how landlords – not all of them but quite a few of them – don’t play by the rules and a lot of people, if their oven doesn’t work and they rent it as furnished, they contact their landlords and five months down the line, it’s still not done.
Recently I was on contact with a woman who has three children, and her oven hadn’t worked for six months, and the landlord had promised that he would do it but he didn’t. I spoke to a housing officer and she told me what laws to quote and within a week, the oven was fixed and she’d got a new oven.
It’s just about educating people about their rights and to so they don’t have put up for six months without an oven and living off microwaved food, which is wrong.
“There aren’t any rebels at Birmingham City Council in the Labour party, they’re all “Yes Albert [Bore], yes we’ll do that Albert, yes we’ll do that”, none of them stick their head out, they just do what he says.”
Do you find it intimidating at all that you are just going to be turning 18 before the local elections in 2015, and you’re going to be standing as a council candidate?
Not really. A lot of people have said “You’re so young, you don’t have any knowledge of the world” but I’ve been through a lot.
I live on my own, I experience quite a bit but the thing is, my argument back to them asking “Why should we give you a chance?” is “Why give the Tories a chance? Why give Labour a chance, and why give the Lib Dems a chance after the state of this country?”, and if everyone keeps giving them a chance over and over again then we’re just going to stay in the same mess so what have they got to lose voting for me, if you know what I mean.
Who are you up against in this ward for the council election and why do you think you’re the best choice for the voters?
So, at the moment, I’ve declared that I’m standing and the current council Martin Straker Welds and he’s Labour, he’s been a councillor for 3 years and then he’s re-standing next year. Currently, at the moment, it’s him and I against each other, but no other candidates have declared that they’re going to standing.
How I’m different is I’m independent, I don’t have ties to any party, I don’t have to pass any [orders on]. There aren’t any rebels at Birmingham City Council in the Labour party, they’re all “Yes Albert [Bore], yes we’ll do that Albert, yes we’ll do that”, none of them stick their head out, they just do what he says.
As an independent, if the residents aren’t happy, I’ll say the residents aren’t happy, “What are you doing? What are you playing at?”, and that’s how I’ll be different.
I’d also be different by not keeping my council allowance or expenses, I would spend all the money, £18,000 or whatever it is, on the ward. If people are saying spending cuts are affecting us and streets aren’t clean then that’s what I’ll promise to do. A monthly clean up where we tackle a grot spot and put precautions in to prevent the litter from reoccurring.
When did you get involved in politics and what is that inspired you to do what you do?
I got into politics in 2011/2012 when I stood for the Youth Parliament in Solihull, and I got elected as Deputy Member of the Youth Parliament. When I lived in Solihull, I learned a bit about Solihull and went to the full council meetings and learned a bit about the role of the council. Solihull is very different to Birmingham so I learned quite a bit there.
When I moved to Kings Heath – and I love Moseley and Kings Heath so much as it’s such an amazing place and the people are very creative, and it’s such a quirky niche place – I wanna be seen yarn bombing on the trees, I wanna be seen guerrilla gardening outside the schools for fruit and vegetables. If I want that, then I have to ask for that. If you want to do it at the moment then you’d have 200-odd health & safety laws coming at you so let’s go there and let’s try and get it done.
What kind of a response have you been getting on the street?
I’ve been getting a good response, I’ve been happy with the response I’ve been getting. A lot of people are open to me and have said “Yes you are young but what have we got to lose? You’re better than everyone [other candidates] and it’s great that young people are getting involved, you want to take a stand and you want to go out of your way to make the community a better place.”
People have just been generally good and I’ve had a lot of people offer to help me leaflet and put up posters in their houses and businesses, and it’s really warm. On Twitter, Facebook and email, people are sharing YouTube videos I’m appearing in and saying “great work” and things like that so it’s been really good.
“If I didn’t get elected as a councillor, I’d be so upset. I would probably re-stand as a councillor but, at this moment in time, I’m hoping I get elected next year. I’m not thinking about that that much.”
Now, regardless of whether you become councillor or not in 2015, what have you got planned as far as political ambitions are concerned for the next year?
Well, if I do get elected as a councillor, I would serve my four years as a councillor and, if the time was right, I would stand as MP four years later for the constituency of Hall Green.
If I didn’t get elected as a councillor, I’d be so upset. I would probably re-stand as a councillor but, at this moment in time, I’m hoping I get elected next year. I’m not thinking about that that much.
All candidates standing in Moseley and Kings Heath for the Birmingham City Council election 2015 are: Martin Gladstone Straker-Welds (Labour), Luke Edward Holland (Ind), Martin James Paul Mullaney (Lib Dem), Owen Vaughan Williams (Con), Elly Stanton (Greens), Rashpal Mondair (UKIP) and Mike Friel (TUSC).