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THE BIG INTERVIEW: The bright young hope for politics
ELLIE James, 16, is the newly-elected Swindon member of the Youth Parliament, a national body representing the views of young people. She attends Lydiard Park Academy and lives in Grange Park
ONE of the GCSEs Ellie James studies for is in textiles – the legacy of a previous ambition.
“I always wanted to go into fashion,” she said. “That was always generally my aim, which has changed now. I’m not going to take textiles further. I was always going to do it at A Level.
“I’ve always enjoyed fashion and I still do, but I had a bit of a calling, I suppose. I want to do something maybe a bit more... noteworthy, perhaps.
“Fashion is a very materialistic world and I don’t know if I want to be a part of that.”
Ellie was born in Salisbury, and the family moved to Swindon when she was two. Her mother manages the Sexual Assault Referral Centre for Swindon and Wiltshire, and her father is in IT risk management. Ellie has two stepbrothers, a stepsister and two half-sisters.
She first heard about the Youth Parliament when fellow Lydiard Park Academy pupil Carney Bonner was elected to it.
“That’s about four years ago now,” she said. “I always thought, ‘Oh, that would be cool’. Two years later I saw the forms again and thought, ‘Should I do it?’ but I was 14 at the time and wasn’t really 100 per cent sure of it.
“Then, this time round, I got the notice that they were looking for people to apply again, and I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to do it’.”
Ellie plans to use her two-year term to promote education, including urging young people to choose education over early parenthood. This part of her campaign was inspired by a half sister who, while delighted with motherhood, regrets not taking her education further.
Ellie’s stance goes beyond straightforward sex education: “There’s a lot on the more clinical, scientific side of things, but its more the cultural changes. I think young people – young girls and young males – need to embrace education more.
“Enrich the mind, take opportunities. Then if you have those aspirations for a further career you are less likely, I think, to have a child young.
“It’s quite difficult for young women to get where they want to be if they have a child young.”
Ellie readily acknowledges that many young people regard politics as dull and irrelevant, but her message is that politics and its ramifications are with us all the time.
“When you’re discussing in the classroom different things such as, perhaps, abortion or other topics, it’s all politics. I don’t think they realise – I think they probably see the middle-aged, middle class men in suits and that’s what they think politics is.
“But it’s not really. There’s a lot more to it. I do think it’s a shame that a lot more young people don’t engage.”
“Maybe I’m a bit of a naive 16-year-old but I have a bit of faith and I think they’re not all bad people. They’re trying to do something for our country, so I respect that.”
“I think there has to be a bit of active involvement. You can’t rely on the Government to do everything. If people want to be involved they should get themselves involved and do something about it.”
Ellie points out that there is less of a ‘political class’ these days, and welcomes the growing diversity among elected representatives.
“There are more women,” she said, “there are more people of ethnic minorites and there are more people of different classes. Things are changing.”
The Youth Parliament is avowedly apolitical, and Ellie herself has no particular affiliation – although she has strong views about political systems.
“I think the idea of the system we have is really good. I completely agree with capitalism and the ability to be able to make your own money, and that there be a ladder of success.
“I think it’s great that we’ve got a democracy, that we’re able to voice our opinions. It’s just whether that’s easy enough – I think there definitely needs to be more engagement.”
Ellie’s future? She plans a degree in a social or political science, although she hasn’t yet decided on a career path.
If she goes into politics, it will only be after experience outside that world. In the immediate future, her goal is simple: “I intend to make a difference.”