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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 October, 2004, 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK
'I want to do something positive'
A national campaign is under way this week which aims to get young people more involved in democracy, politics and issues within their communities.

Councillor Sam Margrave
Cllr Margrave, 21, says he want to make a difference locally

Local Democracy Week involves a range of events, from local conferences and debates, to celebrity appearances, and an online version of a well-known reality TV show, in this case called 'I'm a Councillor, Get Me Out of Here!'

BBC News Online talked to one young local political activist about what motivated him to get involved.

At 21, Sam Margrave is the youngest councillor in England and Wales, making him a rarity on the political landscape.

As a Labour Party candidate he was elected onto Nuneaton and Bedworth Council in June this year, and spends all his time on political and community work.

Motivated by a "strong sense of social justice" Cllr Margrave first got into politics as a young teenager.

"I used to go along and ask questions at full council meetings when I was 16," he said.

Being in the chamber was a bit like a drama - I was missing EastEnders but it was like watching a soap opera
Cllr Sam Margrave

He cites a number of factors when asked what inspired him to become active.

"I've always been interested in representing people, and making a difference because I think things can be made better.

"I suppose what triggered it off, like for many people, was Blue Peter. Getting involved in bring and buy sales and hearing about Third World debt - these things can have a huge influence."

After becoming involved with youth councils at a young age, he was encouraged to take his local authority to task at meetings in the town hall.

"The first question I ever asked in the council chamber was about allowing candidates to stand at the age of 18. I'm now a leading figure in that campaign.

'Amazingly supportive'

"I believe that if you are old enough to vote for the people that represent you, you should be allowed to represent others."

"Being in the chamber was a bit like a drama. I was missing EastEnders but it was like watching a soap opera - I found it exciting.

"I have since been involved in election campaigns, and they are exciting too because they are about giving people a voice."

He may get the occasional ribbing from his mates, but Sam Margrave doesn't seem to have a problem being taken seriously in the political arena.

Since being elected he has been appointed group whip for the council's Labour members, and sits on a number of committees.

Democracy is not all about Prime Minister's Questions and mayors dressing in silly tights - it's about our lives
Cllr Sam Margrave

He is also involved with the campaign for the English Regions, the West Midlands Constitutional Convention, and holds positions locally and nationally in the party, and its youth wing.

"People have been amazingly supportive and receptive, no one ever says I'm too young."

As part of Local Democracy Week some local youngsters will be shadowing him as he goes about his work.

"All young people are capable of being elected to positions like mine. If you can speak well, work hard and believe you can make a difference then there is no reason why not."

The pay may be "awful" and the job often curtails his social life, but the benefits are worth the sacrifices, he says.

But, he adds, for those with no inclination to become active in politics, it is still important that they believe in the democratic process and at least use their vote.

William Hague
Politicians' attempts at appealing to the youth have often backfired

Removing the need to physically register to vote - for example by incorporating registration into ID cards - would help in getting more people involved in the democratic process, he believes.

"Also, we need to appeal to young people, to say democracy is not all about Prime Minister's Questions and mayors dressing in silly tights - it's about our lives.

"I'm not saying I want to be Prime Minister. My only ambition is to make things better - to build on what we've done, but to look forward.

"I'm here because I want to make a difference to the local community. I want to be remembered for doing something positive, at whatever level that may be."




SEE ALSO:
Youth 'given democracy voice'
18 Oct 04  |  Northern Ireland
Pupils pick city's 'young mayor'
17 Oct 04  |  Cumbria
Politicians vie for youth respect
16 Oct 04  |  Oxfordshire
The politics of having fun
20 Aug 03  |  Humber


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