Rivals bring young blood to election

They are the acceptable faces of this year's local elections - a pair of politicians divided by party but united in glorious, glamorous youth. While most candidates in Norfolk range from the middle-aged to the "vintage", politicos will have their eyes glued on one ward in south Norfolk over the next month, where battling it out for a seat in the South Norfolk Council chamber are a 19 and a 23-year-old.

They are the acceptable faces of this year's local elections - a pair of politicians divided by party but united in glorious, glamorous youth.

While most candidates in Norfolk range from the middle-aged to the "vintage", politicos will have their eyes glued on one ward in south Norfolk over the next month, where battling it out for a seat in the South Norfolk Council chamber are a 19 and a 23-year-old.

And with no one else standing, the good people of Newton Flotman are destined to be represented for the next four years by someone young enough not to even remember the premiership of Margaret Thatcher.

Whichever of Liberal Democrat Jenni Clutten (the 19-year-old) or Tory Claire Turner wins, their reign will be a far cry from outgoing veteran councillor John Peterson.

In fact, when he was first elected in 1987, one candidate was a toddler and the other had not even been born.

Yesterday, as he looked paternally on during our photoshoot in the village, south of Norwich, he said the battle would present an ideal opportunity for young people to grab a foothold in local politics.

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"This will correct some of the imbalance on South Norfolk Council," he said. "There are far too many old men on it and it will be excellent to have some young people there instead."

Both candidates shy away from promoting themselves as ambassadors of youth - but both have a single-minded determination to make south Norfolk a better place for young people.

Miss Clutten said: "I became interested in politics about three years ago. I believe that you shouldn't expect people to do something for you unless you're happy to do it yourself. I don't grumble about things, I try to change them.

"People might look at me and think I'm inexperienced, but I've been to more council meetings than 95pc of people.

"I know how local government works and I take it very seriously - it's not a game."

Miss Turner said: "I've always cared passionately about the environment, not just CO2 emissions but about the quality of life.

"I'm standing because I want South Norfolk Council to take that more seriously.

"I think it's good that young people are showing an interest in politics. I don't think my age is an issue - with my job I have expert communication skills and I'm good at getting on with people.

"Young people's voices are as important as anyone else's and I hope they will come out and be heard in the local elections."

But while few will disagree that bringing young people into local democracy is a good thing, councillors still have to represent a generally elderly village population - and be experienced enough to help solve their problems.

Both candidates said they were up to the challenge and Dr Peterson said he saw no reason why youth would not be able to cope.

"People might object to a young candidate if they were standing against the voice of experience but here it will be a fair fight," he said. "Out of the 200 to 300 people I've spoken to in the ward so far, only one or two have expressed doubt. Most people have been very supportive."