AN astrophysics student is hoping to star in the next council elections after being selected to contest a seat in Gower.
Ben Walker’s hat will be in the ring for the Pennard seat – currently occupied by Independent councillor Lynda James – in May 2022.
He is also leading a new Swansea Conservatives youth shadow cabinet.
The 19-year-old said it was important for young people’s views to be heard, although he admitted that politics was not always a big talking point among his age group.
“I think you get a mixture,” he said. “I think some young people don’t really care – others are really, really passionate.”
Ben falls in the latter camp.
He said his priorities for the county would be better public transport, more investment in education, and a strong focus on the environment and healthy living.
Ben said he recalled periodic holes in the roof at Bishopston Comprehensive School when he was a pupil there and, on the subject of healthy living, would like a proposed cycle path from Swansea to Bishopston to be extended west to his patch.
He has worked with Bishopston councillor and Swansea Conservatives leader, Cllr Lyndon Jones, on local projects and also works part-time in a Co-op store.
His first year of an astrophysics degree at Keele University, Staffordshire was interrupted by the coronavirus crisis.
Ben’s youth shadow cabinet colleagues are Euan Renesto, Jasmine Rowlands Lean, Jacob Derluk, Usmaan Ali, Jack Townend, Dewi Roberts, Rhys Owen, Max Bromfield and Rebecca Fudge.
Ben said: “We want to inspire a new generation of Conservative voters whilst maintaining our current vote and I very much believe that by putting youth at the heart of our policy, we can achieve great things in the 2022 local elections.”
Cllr Jones said he was delighted that Ben was leading the group.
“I think it is important to give young people a voice,” he said.
This was echoed by his deputy, Oystermouth councillor Myles Langstone.
“As someone who currently sits as one of the youngest councillors in Swansea, I recognise the important role and contribution young people can make,” he said.
Swansea has nine Conservative councillors, 13 from the Liberal Democrat-Independent group, 48 Labour and two from the Uplands Party.
Swansea Lib-Dems used to have a similar youth group, said party leader, Cllr Chris Holley.
“It was difficult to keep it relevant,” he said. “I would encourage schools to have their own school councils.
“I think you get a wider spread of young people’s opinions.”
Labour cabinet member and, until recently, deputy leader, Cllr Clive Lloyd, said he wasn’t aware of Labour having a youth forum as such but said the party had a good record of selecting young candidates.
Cllr Lloyd said: “We would like to encourage young people, and all people from those sections of society which are not represented, to get involved.”
Next year, 16 and 17-year-olds will be able to vote in the Welsh Assembly elections for the first time.