Standing for council was never an easy decision, nor was it meant to be. Had I got enough time to commit to people who were going to look to me in their desperate hours? Had I got enough energy to carry on with my full-time job and take on such a huge responsibility?
I remember asking these questions, and many more, as I suppose I was looking for an escape route. A way to not hand in my application form. Within six weeks though, I’d filled it out and it was in.
I first got involved in politics during the 2017 general election, called up on my 18th birthday, when one of my friends asked me to go along to a ‘canvassing’ session. Being idle to what that meant, I went along in jeans and a hoody. I arrived at a pub car park in Eaton Park and there was my friend and colleague. “Afternoon, we’ve got an MP on his way”. Cheers! Here I am, oblivious to politics, studying childcare and about to meet an MP. I remember the small sweat I had.
And I suppose from there on in, I began a new life. One filled with memories that some could only dream about.
I’ve been lucky to be a part of Stoke-on-Trent Conservative Association. The hard work they put in was vindicated by bucking the national trend during this year’s local elections. Not only did every one of their current councillors hold their seats, they more than doubled their number from seven to 15!
The night of the count was one I’ll remember forever. I’d not slept the Wednesday night, and I began my election day at 4am. Long hours later, at twenty to ten that evening, I knocked on my last door, knowing I’d given it my all and headed to the count. There was nothing more anybody could have done.
Being a part of Stoke Conservatives is a privilege. I’m honoured to tell people that is where my Conservative Party Membership lies. Do you want to know why? Because they succeed, they are one big family, they help you in your own times of desperation, and nobody gets left behind. To me, that’s what a successful association should be like.
As a candidate, I remember many times the abusive emails, phone calls and even the letters I received. “You’re too young.” “You’re so young, you still have acne.” “How can you bring anything to our area?” “Scum.” “Traitor.”
As I’m sitting writing this, there’s a leaflet of mine that was once delivered and returned to me: scrawled across it someone has written “Never trust a Tory”. I’m fine with that, because I’m going to prove to you why you should trust a Tory. I have four years to make that my mission.
At just 20 years old, I have been elected to one of Stoke-on-Trent’s finest seats. Eaton Park and Bucknall. Bucknall, the area I’ve been born and bought up in. At just 20 years old, I am the youngest democratically elected representative of the people in Stoke-on-Trent.
At just 20 years old, I have knowledge and new skills taught to me by some fantastic experiences and people. Also, yes, some experiences I wouldn’t want my worst enemies to go through. And that’s fine. “Heather is an enthusiastic, inspirational, thoughtful and caring individual who will make a difference to our community and changes which we deserve.” That’s how one resident described me. “Seeing what Heather already does in the community, she is like a breath of fresh air. I have every confidence in her,” says another.
The people of Eaton Park and Bucknall couldn’t have been more welcoming when I put my first leaflet out, in the autumn of 2017. Two years of hard work and dedication paid off.
In Autumn 2018, the Conservative Party offered me an opportunity I could never turn down. After seeing the hours I put into the party, fighting by-elections for local authorities, contesting parliamentary seats, and the ‘behind closed door work’ they offered me a contract. A job to improve my own ability to fight elections. The Conservative Party gave me stability I’d never had before, a chance to take off. I came into this game with very little, but I’ll leave with my bag jam packed!
This party has proven to me that its reputation – “old, male and stale” – is far from the truth. You’ve only got to look at Stoke Conservatives to know that this isn’t the case.
Over the past five months I’ve been out most days, anything up to 12 hours a day, fighting for Stoke-on-Trent. Telling people of the successes here in my home city. It’s clear that most of our votes didn’t come from people taking a keen interest in national politics, but from what we do here locally, helping those who are in need, campaigning on issues that matter the most to local people.
When I was asked to write this piece, one of the questions asked of me was “what you want to do next”. Well let me tell you this, it’s to sit down with a piece of cake and a cup of tea whilst I get my head around this fantastic success and figure out how I can best serve the people of Eaton Park and Bucknall.
To anyone thinking of standing in local elections: do it.
Don’t second guess yourself.
You can do it.
If I can do it, so can you.