12 / 08 / 20
Ben Grogan is one of our recent Parliamentors alumni, and recently became a Labour candidate for Salford! We caught up with him recently about his experiences and drive towards social action
Can you explain how you become the council candidate?
I have always interested Labour party politics, so after becoming a member I simply applied formally for a position, and was selected to be a candidate for Salford.
What made you want to be the representative for people in your area?
I’ve always been passionate about the journey of local politics. I found myself reaching out to councillors, curiously researching about how much influence they have in decisions and how much ability they have to make changes locally.
As a young person still in education, do you see yourself represented in politics?
There aren’t enough people in politics which look and feel relatable…to young people! I feel this has to be changed, and my generation is the one to do it.
How do you think representation is done well, when people from all kinds of backgrounds, ages, ethnicities all have one person to represent them?
Salford is an incredibly diverse area, but the demographic is not equal to the representation. This is one of the aspects I feel passionate about, and look forward to making positive change in.
How can we get more young people involved in politics, and understanding the impact it has and can have?
Local political groups can be intimidating, and young people interested in politics need the opportunity to make links and connections. School students need to be more educated about the UK’s power structure and the amount of influence people have at different stages. University political societies also have a real opportunity to play a bigger role in this – a start would be to link to the local council, to create better connections between the students and politicians.
How does your faith change how you see politics, and what you want to change locally?
Faith can be a huge part of someone’s identity. I feel left-wing politics can be unwelcoming to faith and positive dialogue around it, and therefore people can feel like this aspect of their identity is not being addressed. In the Parliamentors programme, we experienced skills training to become aware of when people of faith are spoken about as individuals and not as a whole. This is an aspect of politics I wish to see rolled out across the board.
A big part of politics now is bringing divided people together through dialogue. What are keywords you would describe your positive & negative experiences of this?
Any dialogue: Is better than no dialogue.
Negative dialogue: Tribalistic approaches. Making assumptions. Not asking the right questions to the right people.
Positive dialogue: Consulting with people & creating opportunities for negotiations.
Negative social action: Temporary projects which can last a few months and then things go back to as they were before – making it a tick box exercise rather than a long–lasting change. Action is taken without really understanding the issue at hand, and activities can all be formative – be more about the event rather than the substance.
Positive social action: have an aim which is narrow (as opposed to huge/vague/unspecific) and which affects a lot of people. Bring people who are affected by the issue into the process, let them speak and listen to them, involve them.
What is your vision for Salford – how could politics, interfaith and social action interact for good?
The most perfect world would be for key game changers to have a more joined up approach. I would love to see and be part of a movement of secular aspects to see the value of grassroots charities & faith groups, and have them influence politics, policies & key decisions.
What advice would you give to the next cohort of ParliaMentors wanting to get involved in local politics?
Have a good understanding of the community that you’re in, who has the most influence and power. Understand the needs of that community. Make connections – you never know who your fellow Parliamentors, alumni and MP’s might end up! Think long term. Be consistent. Always try and get the locals on board. And enjoy the process!