Why I got into politics and became a city councillor

Charlotte Gerada, 33, recently became a Labour councillor for Central Southsea. She shares what it's like to be a councillor and why she has a passion for politics.

Charlotte Gerada, 33, recently became a Labour councillor for Central Southsea

Growing up in my house, we weren’t the type of family to sit down around a dinner table and discuss politics. We were more like the family that ate dinner on our laps while watching TV, so I didn’t see myself as ‘political’ as a young person.

However, my family were loyal Labour voters, had working-class jobs and were members of trade unions.

What sparked my interest in politics

I would say that I first became really interested and conscious about politics when a friend of mine started being unfair to me about receiving Educational Maintenance Allowance to support me during college. This was an allowance introduced by the Labour Government at the time to support college students from low-income households to get them through their education.

I was so angry and started writing for a local youth magazine called ‘Rant Magazine’ – writing an article about why this allowance was so important to me. I found a voice through writing articles on a variety of topics and eventually hosted a radio show on Express FM when I was 17 to rant there too. And I am still ranting to this day!

I’ve been a member of the Labour Party for about five years now.


Read more: What it’s like to work in politics

Becoming a councillor

Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This really underpins my motivation to take up a leadership role in politics.

Portsmouth is a wonderful, beautiful city with so much going for it, but I think – and many residents have told me as much – that it could be even better. Local councils have a lot of power to change things for the better and I wanted to make our city somewhere that all residents beam with pride about. I’m ambitious about what we can achieve in Pompey.

Sandhurst has a motto that I really admire: ‘to serve is to lead’. I look at elected officials as people who should view themselves as servants. They shouldn’t be in it for status or money. They should be in it to help their community.

So, I wanted to be a Labour councillor for Central Southsea – not just because I love our community and want to serve it – but also because I have the skills and experience to do a good job. Most importantly though, I am an *excellent* listener! I believe the best ideas come from the bottom up, where residents, businesses and workers are listened to, and lead change in their communities.

Young people and women in politics

It’s incredibly important for young people to be active politically because politics shapes all of our futures. It can either help to propel us or hold us back. The more of us that are conscious of the importance of politics and play a part in challenging what’s decided, means the future is likely to work for more of us – for the many, not the few.

For young women, in particular, there are specific challenges that they face, including sexism, misogyny, structural gender inequality. So the more of us that understand these specific challenges, the more of us there are to actively confront and overcome them. Not to mention building sisterly solidarity among all women to secure a more gender-equal future for all of us!

I am always heartened by how politically attuned and active younger generations are today and I have great hopes for the future of our city, society and planet, based on the brilliant young people coming forward to take a stand on the biggest issues of our time. That’s everything from institutional racism through the Black Lives Matter movement, to responding to the climate emergency with the Youth Climate Strikes.

Making politics more diverse and inclusive

This is one of the reasons I wanted to stand for councillor in Portsmouth. We have a severe lack of diversity in our council chamber at the moment. Prior to this election, only 10 out of 42 elected councillors were women.

I’m really proud that as of the 2019 General Election, Labour has a 50:50 split of men to women MPs. In terms of what we’ve done in Portsmouth, I’m equally as proud that Portsmouth Labour achieved 50:50 gender parity across our candidates.

And we’ve had diversity in all senses: in age, ethnic background, LGBT+, disabilities, key workers, class. We had Kirsty Mellor who is a domestic violence survivor and Craig Withey who’s a veteran. Then you’ve got Nikki Coles who’s a mum of three and a renter and Georgia Hancock who is a transwoman.

Striving for diversity is so important, because the simple reality is, our candidates reflect the diversity of our city. This is what Portsmouth looks like and we can’t solve the city’s problems unless we have people who are familiar with those problems elected to political office.

My priorities as a councillor

The biggest issues that are priorities for me – and that I aim to focus on as a councillor – are: responding to the climate crisis, improving road safety, fighting for social justice, tackling the housing crisis, fighting to improve workers’ rights and supporting our local business, highstreets and economy.

These are the issues that matter most to residents too. I’ve had hundreds of conversations with residents, workers, businesses and community groups within and beyond Central Southsea ward and these were the issues that came up most commonly.

I’m looking forward to getting work on tackling these issues and many more over the coming weeks and months!

Don’t give up

I just want to end by saying the sky’s the limit. If you have the ambition to do something – like being involved in politics – keep on going until you get there.

I’ve had lots of support and help along the way, from people I know, people I got to know, informal and formal mentors. Don’t be afraid to be proactive and reach out to those in positions you might like to do one day, for some tips or advice. There is a lot of kindness and generosity out there and following your dreams is so important.

And, don’t *EVER* think that because of your gender, or your background, or where you live, you can’t do anything you want to do. It is all possible! Please contact me if I can ever support you – I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for all of the inspirational people that have supported me along the way.


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