Schoolboy becomes youngest councillor in the UK

Tom Bletsoe – a schoolboy from Cambridgeshire – celebrated his first electoral victory last night in the safe Conservative ward of St Ives, Cambridgeshire.  Tom, 18 years old, stood and won as an independent endorsed by the Independent Network, the not-for-profit organisation which promotes and supports independent candidates in elections. The Independent Network is not a political party and does not impose any political views on supporters or candidates it endorses.

Tom received 41 per cent of the total votes cast, beating his closest competitor, the Conservative candidate, by over just under 100 votes. Votes for independent candidates in the ward totalled 57.8 per cent of the votes cast.

Tom, who celebrated his 18th birthday in late December, is thought to be the youngest councillor in the UK and the first 18 year old to become a councillor without the support of a party political machine. He was endorsed by the Independent Network in January after committing to the Bell Principles – the first set of conduct guidelines created by a political organisation for its affiliated candidates and representatives

Councillor Tom Bletsoe said,  

“Young people like me feel no affiliation with political parties: better to represent my constituency, my conscience and be a voice of young people in the political process, free from the control of any political party, pressure group or whip. I will listen to my ward, consulting the community constantly. I believe that, in a fair government, people should come before parties. I am proud to be totally independent, as I feel that any choices I make will be completely independent of any other organisation - and I will make choices that benefit the people of my town, rather than benefiting any political group.”

Tamsin Omond, national coordinator of the Independent Network,

“Independent candidates are the only alternative to party political candidates, and Tom’s victory is a clear sign that people are recognising that parties don’t represent them. Independents do not follow a party whip and are free to listen to their communities and their conscience. Over half of all the votes cast in the St Ives, by-election were for an independent candidate.

“The passion and commitment that Tom showed throughout his campaign has made an impressive challenge to the stranglehold of party politics in local government. He is an example that there is a role for young people in the political process and that they have a lot to contribute.

“The Independent Network is campaigning with independent candidates to increase their success at the next local elections in May 2011. Currently over 300 independent candidates are endorsed by the Independent Network, offering them a common identity, through commitment to the Bell Principles. The Independent Network acts as a central hub of resources, contacts and a national campaign to demonstrate to the electorate that they have an alternative. We anticipate more successes like Tom’s.”

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Notes to Editors:

For more information please visit: www.independentnetwork.org.uk. Alternatively you can contact the press office at 020 7609 0777.

The Independent Network is a loose non- profit association that provides support to candidates who do not belong to a political party. The Independent Network was established to provide support for independent candidates, as no other organisation existed to support them.

Independent candidates do not have access to a large national party structure with its human and financial resources.  The Independent Network was formed to attend to this inequality and continues to encourage the electorate to acknowledge the success and influence that independents are having in local Government and can have in Parliament.

The Independent Network does not impose any political views on the individuals and parties it supports or that support the Independent Network. However, endorsed candidates must be non-discriminatory and adhere to The Bell Principles.

The Bell Principles require that all endorsed independent candidates:

  • abide wholeheartedly by the spirit and letter of the Seven Principles of Public Life set out by Lord Nolan in 1995: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership
  • be guided by considered evidence, our real world experience and expertise, our constituencies and our consciences
  • be free from the control of any political party, pressure group or whip
  • be non-discriminatory, ethical and committed to pluralism
  • make decisions transparently and openly at every stage and level of the political process, enabling people to see how decisions are made and the evidence on which they are based
  • listen, consulting our communities constantly and innovatively
  • treat political opponents with courtesy and respect, challenging them when we believe they are wrong, and agreeing with them when we believe they are right
  • resist abuses of power and patronage and promote democracy at every level
  • claim expenses, salaries and compensation openly so the public can judge the value for money of our activities.
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