Aisha Malik-Smith has knocked on every door in Northumberland Heathby Sophia Moss / May 2, 2018 / Leave a comment
Aisha Malik-Smith is not your average local council candidate. Born in December 1999, the 18-year-old divides her time between campaigning ahead of the 3rd May local elections and revising for her International Baccalaureate. Despite her age, Aisha has been a Labour activist for four years, she was elected as Labour Vice Chair of her constituency Old Bexley & Sidcup a year ago, she worked on the Labour campaign for mental health, and she’s been leafletting ever since she can remember.
Born into a Labour family, Aisha’s mother Kathryn Smith was a Labour councillor in Northumberland Heath, a ward in the Bexley borough of South East London where Aisha is running this time around. Her father Munir Malik is running as a candidate for the nearby Crayford ward. Aisha remembers being five years old and handing out campaign leaflets with her parents. “At the time I thought, god, I hope I never have to do this myself,” Aisha says, “but over the years I fell in love with it.”
Only 33 per cent of local councillors are female, according to research published in 2017 by think tank IPPR. A census in 2013 found that 96 per cent of local authority councillors were white, the average age of a councillor was 60, and only 12 per cent were under 45. “It’s not yet the norm for anyone who’s not a middle aged white man to be your political representative,” Aisha says, “so a few people were surprised to see a young mixed-race woman standing, but that just fuelled me to break down the expectations of the kind of person that’s suitable to represent us.”
Aisha says she was compelled to stand in the election because she believes local services are being misrun by the Conservatives. “In Northumberland Heath, the Conservatives are spending half a million pounds on making sure that CCTV cameras don’t get stolen or vandalised, but they’re not actually employing anyone to monitor the CCTV,” she says, “they’ve made the people who used to monitor it redundant. They’re wasting half a million pounds of our taxpayer’s money and they’re not doing anything to improve community safety.” [Prospect cannot verify every claim here, but much relevant information can be found in the Bexley annual accounts]
Health care, housing and social care are important issues for Aisha. And while the average age of a Northumberland Heath…