By Head of Media Richard Wood
Lewis Macleod, 22, Labour candidate for Hilton, Woodside and Stockethill, Aberdeen City Council
1) What does politics mean to you?
Politics affects every facet of our lives – whether that’s the frequency of the bus service, quality of our healthcare, working pay and conditions, the cost of a pint at the local, or the ability to access education. It’s about people’s ability to engage in society, and the conditions they live in. But in a world where just eight people own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the global population, it’s clear that politics is failing many. Politics to me is about convincing people of ideas and organising for a world where everyone has access to healthcare, to food, to housing, and to education. A world where profit is not prioritised over people. Because power and wealth should stay with the workers who create it, not in the hands of some far removed elite.
2) Why are you standing for council?
I’m standing for council because I think it’s essential we have young, socialist voices within the Aberdeen Town House to advocate for the radical change required to bring down the high cost of living in the city. I’m 22 years old, and moved to Aberdeen in 2012 to study a degree in English Literature and I’ve found a home here. I want to work to make it a city that’s more affordable and more vibrant than it currently is.
In terms of my political experience, I’ve been heavily involved in a number of campaigns both locally and nationally – campaigning for rent controls and greater tenant security as a Living Rent Campaign activist, working with the University and College Union (UCU) to stop job cuts at Aberdeen University, and campaigning nationally for free education. My day job is as a full-time elected student union officer, with a remit that encompasses community outreach, citizenship, and sustainability. While I’m young, I have political experience as a grassroots activist and an elected representative. I think I can bring this experience and some radical new ideas to the council.
3) How did you get involved with the Labour Party and what is it about Labour that made you join and want to run to represent it?
I joined The Labour Party in the summer of 2015 in the run-up to Jeremy Corbyn’s first leadership election bid. I was encouraged by the vision Corbyn put forward for the Labour Party he wanted to see: one that returns to the party’s core socialist values. The Labour Party has the capability to transform our society by redistributing power and wealth from the rich. I want to see a well-funded and fully nationalised NHS, public ownership of transport, a proper minimum wage, free education, rent controls, and full rights for migrants and refugees, and it is the Labour Party that can implement these policies. With the party’s historic link to trade unions, it is also a party that will fight for workers’ interests. At a local level, Labour councils have done some fantastic work, and with local services being slashed by the Tories, as well as the SNP here in Scotland, it’s pivotal that we have strong Labour councils that will protect these vital services.
4) What do you hope to achieve for the city of Aberdeen if elected?
There are a wide array of changes I would like to see in the city, and a number of practical ways to make them happen. If elected, I want to bring the buses under council control, ensuring that they are run in the interests of the community. It’s evident that the current bus services aren’t working for communities: essential routes have been reduced or scraped entirely, and fares continue to creep up. We need the council to take control to provide a more efficient, and more affordable service. I also hope to improve housing provision, bring down costs for private renters, and improve housing quality. We need more council houses, and as Aberdeen Labour we are committed to building 2000 more council houses here in the Granite City, along with a further 3000 affordable homes. In addition I will push for Aberdeen to become a ‘rent pressure zone’, which would give the council the ability to implement rent controls at a local level. As a councillor, I would also seek to ensure that local services are protected by advocating legal no-cuts budgets – North Ayrshire council have recently passed one and we should be looking to follow. I also want to be very visible and active within the ward of Hilton, Woodside and Stockethill, hosting regular surgeries and working closely with community groups to ensure that I am representing the needs of the community. I will ensure that doorknocking is not simply an exercise reserved for election season, but a method of getting out into the community and directly talking to people about the issues that affect them throughout the year.
5) Many people in Scotland and the whole UK are turned off by politics. What ideas do you have for improving political engagement, especially amongst young people, right across the country?
In terms of political engagement, I think there’s a lot to be said for expanding current citizenship education within schools. We need to be giving young people the knowledge and confidence to engage in politics – to understand the ways in which politics affects their lives and ways that they can make changes they want to see, whether through getting involved in political parties, trade unions, or grassroots campaigns. Likewise, colleges and universities – and, in particular, student unions – also provide political spaces for young people to engage in the issues that affect them. As a councillor I would work to create spaces for communities to come together and discuss politics, and build political participation in schools and community centres. Improving political engagement is ultimately about demonstrating the relevance of politics to people’s lives, and empowering them to get active – the best way to do this is by bringing people together.
Conservative MP or MSP you most admire?
I would say that I don’t ‘admire’ any Conservative MP or MSP, as I fundamentally disagree with their politics. To ‘admire’ implies approval, and I am a member of The Labour Party because I don’t approve of the ideology of the Conservatives, and don’t approve of their actions in government. That said, I often find myself laughing at Jacob Rees-Mogg.
It’s difficult to settle on a definitive political hero but Aneurin Bevan, who played a central role in the creation of the NHS, is definitely a Labour representative to admire.