Durham student makes political history

Thomas Nearney, a first-year Law student at St Mary’s College, has made political history by becoming the youngest ever member elected to Durham County Council.

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Mr Nearney, who was elected by the narrow margin of 42 votes as a Labour councillor for Annfield Plain, said that he was ‘ecstatic’ about the result.

‘Councillor Michele Hodgson and I were fighting a seat which was half Labour, half Derwentside Independent, so it was not a safe Labour seat as some might think,’ he said.

He attributed their electoral success to a strong campaign on the right messages.

‘We fought a long campaign on local issues, where we listened and acted upon people’s concerns. Our campaign was very positive, which I think helped provide solid foundations on which to build.

‘We set priorities around the quality of the local environment, housing and community engagement; and that is what we will now be acting upon in power.

‘Also, our priorities were deliberately realistic in times where Durham County Council faces budget cuts of £200 million. However, the public saw how effective the Labour team was in the area, and how closely Michele and I work together on local issues, which bodes very well for the future.’

Councillor Nearney joined the Labour Party four years ago when he was a student at St Bede’s School in Lanchester. Since coming to Durham he’s been balancing his degree with election campaigning and a part-time job, a heavy workload that he says will prepare him for the role of councillor.

‘By losing my part time job I will able to concentrate my efforts in Annfield Plain, especially as I will be living at home in my second year.

‘My aim is to be accessible as a Councillor and a Law degree helps facilitate that as it is incredibly flexible, with few lectures and lots of reading.’

He said that he would work hard for local residents and listen to their concerns.

‘It is an honour to have the trust of the people placed in me and I will not let them down with the excuse “I’m too busy” – if they ever hear that, then I will have failed them, and I’m not planning that!’

Councillor Nearney also said that he was ‘exceptionally proud of the local Labour party’ for the gains they had made in last Thursday’s elections, thanking their members and families for the support they had given him since campaigning began in November.

Published in Palatinate, Durham’s Official Student Newspaper, 9th May 2013

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