The young Corby election hopeful who was posting election leaflets 'as soon as she could reach the letterbox'

At just 23, Zoe McGhee is aiming to be a force for change on Corby's Kingswood and Exeter estates

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 8:19 pm
Zoe McGhee and her dad John have been canvassing for Labour since she could reach the letterbox
Zoe McGhee and her dad John have been canvassing for Labour since she could reach the letterbox

She's one of the youngest candidates standing for election on the new North Northamptonshire Council and she's aiming to give people like her a voice on the new council.

But former Brooke Weston pupil Zoe McGhee has big shoes to fill.

Her dad is veteran Labour borough and county councillor John McGhee, who's been an elected member in Corby since before Zoe can even remember. Her political background goes back generations and one of her inspirations is her nan's aunt Alice Cullen, the renowned female MP who won Glasgow's tough Gorbals seat an astonishing seven times and helped clear some of the city's worst slum housing.

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Zoe helped organise a toy and coat collection

Zoe is hoping that her young voice can help improve the prospects of the next generation of Corbyites.

She's standing alongside her dad in the inaugural North Northamptonshire Council elections in Corby's Kingswood ward - which also takes in the Exeter estate - one of the most deprived wards in the new unitary area.

Zoe, 23, works as a funding executive for Corby-based CSD activity camps, which provide after-school and holiday care for children across the north of the county. She writes, plans and oversees funding bids and then works hands-on with the children that benefit from the funding. Thanks to Zoe's efforts, the camps can allow local vulnerable and low-income families access some of the activities on offer and allow children to access free meals while they're there. She was nominated for a Spirit of Corby award for her work.

"I want people in this town to see that it doesn't matter where you come from or what your background is, you need to take the opportunities in front of you," she said.

"I work with these kids right from the beginning and seeing the difference it makes to them is the best part of my job," she said.

As a child, Zoe was regularly taken out canvassing with her former steelworker dad John, who moved to Corby in 1982 and eventually became leader of the Labour opposition group on the now-defunct Northants County Council.

"Once I could reach the letterbox I was out posting leaflets, wearing a Labour t-shirt that was several sizes too big!" said Zoe.

After studying at Brooke Weston she went to the University of Brighton to complete a BA in politics and then returned to Corby.

"Those experiences and being involved in politics from such a young age made me confident and when I went to uni I was never scared to offer my opinion," she said.

"Brighton is a really diverse place and I was lucky to study there. I know lots of people from Corby go off to university and don't return but I want to give young people a voice and make a difference in my home town. I want them to know that, actually, you can make a difference here.

"You don't have to move to where the change is, you can be the change in your own community.

"The CSD office is at the Corby Business Centre and there are some really talented people working there in lots of different professions. We need to push that forward and help drive investment in our town to ensure that young people want to stay here after uni and that they can find jobs they want here."

Zoe says her dad is proud of her but she's keen to stake her own claim in local politics and forge her own path.

"My dad is my number one supporter and my mum and sisters are really supportive.

"There's an internal struggle there because I don't want to do this because my dad did it but at the same time you have to take inspiration from what's around you.

"I always wanted to be the prime minister when I was younger!"

Through her work with CSD, Zoe set up a toy and coat appeal at the end of last year and saw first-hand the difficulties that some people on the Exeter estate have with making two ends meet.

"Some of the youth workers there are brilliant," she said. "They're just brilliant at getting through to the kids there and showing them that there are opportunities out there for them. It's also about making sure there's a space available for them."

Zoe is the only woman among eight candidates standing in the Kingswood ward and she wants to represent the diverse communities that live there.

"Since entering into the world of politics I've been shocked at the lack of diversity in representation," she said.

"I saw the picture of all the former leaders of our borough and district councils and it just showed that the old councils may not have always been representative of Corby or what the young people here want or need. We want to stay in this town but we need to speak up about what it is we want."

North Northamptonshire Council is replacing all the of county's district and borough councils as well as Northamptonshire County Council. Voting in the 78 seats on offer in 26 wards takes place on Thursday and, as long as your are registered to vote, you do not need a polling card along with you.