Carl Cashman is the Liberal Democrat for Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor. Carl is 24 years old and studied philosophy and politics at the University of Liverpool. He is currently undertaking postgraduate study in philosophy. In 2016, he was featured on the Tumblr blog “Fit Councillors”, which led to him being dubbed “Britain’s Hottest Councillor” by some. He is a councillor in Prescot North ward of Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, where he leads the Liberal Democrat group – the sole opposition to Labour’s administration in the borough.
Pulse Politics spoke to Cllr Cashman, and asked him about his politics, his campaign, and the dubious title he possesses.
Let’s get the elephant out of the way first. What’s it like being Britain’s Hottest Councillor?
Ha, strange is probably the best way I can describe it. I was suddenly mentioned on Twitter one day by this blog and it kind of went viral! Ending up in the Echo! I was introduced at a party event as
‘Britain’s Hottest Councillor’ and I walked up red faced, completely mortified.
I still get it referenced quite often, but I can safely say it’s not what I want to be known for politically!
So moving swiftly on, what made you get involved in politics?
I have always been politically and morally minded, I hate seeing any sort of injustice or cruelty and I have always been mindful of how blatant injustice is in the world since a very young age.
My community and where I live have always been important to me and I feel extremely comfortable defending my community, at a young age from characters who liked to intimidate and bully and now from a Labour Party that seems to do the same politically.
I particularly remember seeing how poorly Prescot was treated and was perplexed at why the Council wouldn’t fund the refurbishment of Prescot Leisure Centre, a place that I spent most of my youth playing football.
My first real involvement in politics came during the 2010 General Election campaign, I was too late to participate in the campaign trail but I was fascinated by the election itself.
And why did you choose to join the Liberal Democrats?
I took the time to properly read through the manifestos of the main parties and just completely agreed with the Liberal Democrats, particularly their stance on civil liberties and the environment. Since joining I have felt at home and found that the Lib Dems are the party of community politics and putting local issues first.
I had always been a liberal but never really thought of getting involved. After the election I joined the Party and went through some tough times during the coalition years, struggling to accept many decisions and openly disagreeing with many of them.
However, I believe that this time gave me more courage to have confidence in my convictions and it was only through this time and getting involved in politics that I realised I could enact real change.
Did you expect to be elected a councillor when you were?
Well I had tried to become a Councillor for six years previously with no luck. I stood for election regardless of defeat because I believed I had the best intention for my community at heart.
I felt that during this election the Labour Party had really done themselves unforgivable harm over their stance on the Greenbelt and the tide seemed to be with us going into election day.
How does it feel breaking the one-party state Knowsley had?
It was an amazing feeling. I remember being joined by every other progressive opposition candidate in the hall and a massive cheer echoing around the room when they announced our victory.
We felt like we had achieved something big and the good wishes flooded in from that moment on.
Even more ‘sensible’ Labour Councillors congratulated us and said it was ‘needed’.
I get the impression now though, that Labour really aren’t ready for an opposition and don’t like that we’re there. We’ve faced endless barriers when we have tried to contribute. The job is a big one but it’s worth it.
What are the cornerstones of your Metro Mayoral campaign?
I have five main pledges and we will be launching a manifesto shortly to expand our policy ideas a little. Three things are key for me in this election though.
First, the future of the Region after Brexit. I believe the Liverpool City Region is an open, tolerant and kind hearted place and we should show that by declaring our intent to stay in the single market and retain free movement of people.
The European Union, despite its flaws, rescued the City and the Region from the destructive force of Thatcherism in the 80’s. In most of the culturally important areas you’ll find plaques with the declaration ‘part funded by the European Union’.
I think politics needs more young people to stop the middle class, middle age, white male domination we currently have
I love learning from different cultures and people of different background and Liverpool and the Region draws its strength from having a diverse community of scousers.
Second, the protection of our Green Spaces from the Labour onslaught. We currently have a Labour Party on Merseyside intent on paving over beautiful green land in order to meet arbitrary housing targets. In a desperate scramble for funds Labour don’t realise that they’re destroying open spaces for future generations.
If elected I will create a Land Commission and a Brownfield development co-operative so people can ‘buy in’ to the land that is proposed to be developed and have their say.
Third, making the establishment accountable and making sure each part of the Region is heard. It’s important to note that the devolution deal itself is basically rubbish and fails to deliver devolution.
Putting so much power in one person’s hands is dangerous. We should have an assembly, elected by proportional representation and given the power to represent their area.
A core part of my campaign will be to ensure that each individual area is respected and has its own set of policy ideas developed by the Liberal Democrats. The other parties have shown that they will allow this election to be dominated by the City. I am the only candidate from outside the City and I understand people’s worries that their Towns could be forgotten.
What can you offer that Labour’s Steve Rotheram and the Tories’ Tony Caldeira can’t?
I offer faith in people, I will allow the people of the Region a referendum on the Mayoral model, something both Labour and the Tories have pushed through without consulting the people.
Rotheram and Calderia must toe a party line that supports Brexit and shows no concern for our place in the world. They both support this substandard devolution deal and will be pretty much inseparable on civil liberties and other issues.
I offer a region that doesn’t settle for substandard deals done in back rooms by Labour and the Tories. A people driven democracy in an open region. Open for business and open to the world.
Who are your political inspirations?
My main political inspiration is probably Barack Obama. He had a bit of a tough upbringing and always worked hard and helped people by community organising in his early years.
I think he’s very sensible and measured and that is the type of politician I hope to be.
I have to say that Ian Smith, who is my Ward Colleague is also a big inspiration and taught me much of what I know about campaigning.
Although that might not be as glorious a reference as Barack Obama, I have a lot of time and respect for Ian.
Can you tell us a little bit about the waste plant fire in Prescot?
The Waste Plant that caught fire should never have been allowed in Prescot. Back in 2011 I ran a campaign with the Liberal Democrats and local residents against a planning application by the Remondis group to build a Waste Facility in Prescot.
The plans for the facility coincided with another application for 600 new homes to be built around the site. Despite large protests against the plant and warnings about the possibility of a fire, Labour Councillors voted the application through. Labour failed the people of Kirkby over Sonae and now I fear the same thing is happening to Prescot.
I will not allow the facility to reopen without a fight and I hope the people of Prescot come together to stop further ignorant decisions by the Labour Party.
What advice would you give to students and young people who want to get involved in politics?
I would say go for it! It’s great when you find a political family.
I can only speak from a Liberal Democrat perspective but we’re certainly a family that looks after people. It’s the best thing finding common political ground with people and it’s even better the journey with these people to put those political beliefs into action.
I think politics needs more young people to stop the middle class, middle age, white male domination we currently have.
Student politics and the NUS in particular needs a political ‘kick up the backside’.
And finally, why is it important for young people to vote?
Young people need to vote because when they don’t it legitimises the politicians focus on the older generations.
Young people are often ignored or sneered at because they’re seen to not care about issues. There’s nothing cool about not caring, if you give a damn people will give a damn about you. A massive surge in young people voting after Brexit to say ‘not in our name’ would be the most amazing thing I could imagine. I would love that.
Young people, now more than ever, need to activate themselves politically.