In this series, we’ll be chatting to some young Labour councillors around the UK. Local councillor applications have now closed in Havering – you might have applied this time round, or would like to apply in future years! If you would like to find out about what campaigning to be a Labour party councillor is like or what it’s like sitting on a local council, follow our series for interviews with young people already in the job.
Hi Sam, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed, tell us about yourself…
I’m Sam Stopp, 26 years old and I’m a Public Affairs Consultant.
When and why did you decide you wanted to be a councillor?
In a Willesden pub after a couple of beers. I was 22 and had just finished delivering a leaflet slamming the then Liberal MP for Brent Central, Sarah Teather, over her decision to vote against Equal Marriage.
When and where did you stand to be a councillor?
I stood to be a councillor in Wembley Central in 2014, and fought a bitter battle with the Liberals, who ran their usual negative, vacuous campaign about pot-holes and paving slabs.
Did you address specific issues when campaigning in the ward?
Indeed I did. I focussed on homelessness among the Sri Lankan community in the ward, illegal rubbish dumping, freezing council tax and encouraging the establishment of new community hubs to foster community spirit.
How much time did you have to set aside for campaigning? What did you enjoy the most on the campaign trail?
There was a year of weekly campaigning, which intensified massively in the final few weeks, at which point it was taking up nearly all my time. I loved it, however, and I particularly enjoyed ultimately smashing the Liberals – not just in Wembley Central, but across Brent. They have all gone now.
When elected, how many labour councillors do you work with in your labour group on the council?
One works with councillors from across the group. We have 56 Labour councillors in Brent, so this demands working with lots of competing demands and egos.
Do you sit on any committees within the council?
I sit on Scrutiny and Trading Standards. I was previously Deputy Cabinet Member for the Environment and also sat on Licensing. Scrutiny has been far and away the most rewarding committee to sit on because you get the chance to micro-analyse the Council’s policies and strategic decision-making.
How often do you attend council meetings?
Once or twice a week for formal council meetings – sometimes voluntarily, sometimes because I’m formally required to. Labour group meetings are additional to this, as are all the other examples of my sycophantic political hackery.
What is your favourite thing about being a councillor?
Actually being able to help people. That’s why I stood. Knocking on doors and talking with people is engaging, but it’s frustrating when you can’t help people with their issues. Being a councillor gives you that power and I’ve been able to help people avoid the Bedroom Tax and fight back against ridiculous planning applications. It’s been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
What words of encouragement would you have for young people thinking about standing? Why do you think it is important?
Do it. Don’t think about it – just do it. If you believe in Labour values and you’re frustrated and angry about the direction the Tories are taking this country in, then get involved in the fightback and show your community why the Labour Party remains the greatest force for social justice this country has ever produced.
Thank you very much for answering our interview questions!