Earlier this month, Sadiq Khan became mayor of London, and the first Muslim mayor of a European capital city. It was a victory for the Labour party over a cheap campaign of fear-mongering by the Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith, and dominated headlines for the week after.
Which is fine, because it was momentous and a victory of hope over fear, and all the rest of it. However, because of Sadiq's win, another important Labour victory didn't get quite the pick-up it deserved. A week after Khan was made mayor, Goole, a small town near Hull, elected the youngest British mayor on record: 19-year-old "proud Labour member" Terence Smith.
Terence was born on the 14th of February, 1997, which makes him a little bit older than Toy Story 2, but not quite as old as Toy Story. Just to put it all in perspective for you. This time last year, Terence was elected as a local councillor for Goole's north-east ward for a four-year term, as well as being appointed deputy mayor by his fellow councillors. Last Monday, councillors decided to go one further and appoint Terence as mayor of Goole for the next year.
I caught up with Terence to find out about the life of Britain's youngest Mayor.
VICE: Hi Terence. Firstly, congratulations on becoming mayor of Goole, and possibly Britain's youngest mayor. How did you get to this point?
Terence Smith: I took an interest in politics quite early, around the time of the 2010 general election. I was, and still am, a big Labour supporter, and I felt a real frustration at not being able to have a say on the future of the country because of my age. I joined a political group at college in York, but also decided that I wanted to get involved somehow in my own community. So, in the build up to the 2015 elections, I helped out on Jacky Crawford's campaign in Goole, going door-to-door in the community, and I absolutely loved it. I knew I wanted to get more involved from there and I put my name down to run for the council. To my surprise, I was elected and named as deputy mayor. This was last May.
And then you just got bumped up to mayor?
At this year's annual meeting, the natural process was for the deputy mayor to become mayor, but I was complacent and I didn't actually know until the meeting, when the motion was put forward and seconded by the previous mayor.
For those who don't know, what exactly does being a mayor entail?
[Laughs]Does anybody really know? Well, I'm a civic mayor, which is more of an honorary title, almost like a figurehead of the town. Partly, it's about attending charity functions and fundraisers, and going to events held by other towns in an official capacity, as mayor, and promoting Goole.
There must be some meetings and stuff, right?
Yeah, aside from that I chair the Town Council meetings and a lot of other meetings for different groups. Looking at investment and the civic history of Goole, as well as lots of other things. I go firstly to make sure that the council is aware of what's going on, but also so that I personally know what's going on – so I can push Goole and what's happening here when I'm at the functions. It's almost like a PR role in that respect.
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How has your experience been as a young person involved in the council and local politics?
I've really enjoyed pretty much everything I've done since getting involved, especially my role as deputy mayor. I got to attend a lot of great events and represent Goole alongside the mayor, as well as working with the council within the community. I think, in that time, I've hopefully shown that, although I am quite young, I am keen to do my best and that I'm capable.
Do you feel that you have something to prove, to a certain extent, because of your age?
Well, I attracted a little bit of media attention last year when I was named Britain's youngest deputy mayor, and that was great in some ways because it gave Goole a bit of attention nationally. There were some negative comments in the local press, though: "Why would a young person want to stand?" and: "What kind of life skills has he got?" I understand people's concerns when they don't know me personally, but it's just unfortunate that these comments were all anonymous. I'd have liked the opportunity to meet those people and try to change their minds.
Mostly, though, I think people are just surprised, more than anything. Even some of the other mayors have commented at events in the past. When they would ask me who I was and I would say that I was the deputy mayor of Goole, they'd say: "Oh, aren't you a bit young to be doing this kind of thing?" and I'd think, 'Or are you maybe a bit old?'
You've mentioned quite a lot of functions and events and fundraisers so far – do you have to uphold a certain level of decorum in both your official capacity as mayor and in your civilian life?
[Laughs] Well, certainly when I'm at functions, but it's said that you're kind of always on duty as mayor. Goole's a relatively small town, and everyone knows everyone, so it's on my mind that I want to keep up the image. It's not a hindrance exactly, but I'm just aware of it. I tend to go to York or Hull to "socialise".
Have your duties and commitments within the community got in the way of your social life at all do you think?
It has done at times. For instance, when my class received our AS results last year and all went out to celebrate, I had a council meeting to attend. But I wanted this role, and if it means missing out on a few nights out, I don't really mind – I've got plenty of time to go out drinking when I'm older.
Has it been difficult balancing your education, too, then?
I'm quite fortunate in that I'm pretty good with time management. Until now, I've always managed to find a balance quite well. Next year I'll be going to Hull University, and I know the workload is going to increase, but I'm hopeful that I'll manage. I did have to make my choice of university with my role as mayor in mind. I couldn't rightly become mayor of Goole and then go off to Newcastle or London to be a student. But Hull is a fantastic university and really well positioned for me to fulfil my mayoral duties in Goole.
What would you like your legacy to be as mayor?
I'd love to think that by taking this role I've made more young people think about getting involved in community politics. There's a lot of disengagement with politics among young people. I think that's partly the fault of the government, but we also have to take an interest and actively try to engage with the system, to ensure that we have a say in what's going on, both around us locally and on a larger scale.
Thanks for your time, Terence, and good luck in your role as mayor.
You can follow Terence Smith on Twitter, at @terencesmith14
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