Hackney’s youngest councillor Mete Coban talks about ‘rebranding politics’
15:51 17 October 2016
Emma Bartholomew catches up with Hackney’s youngest councillor – Mete Coban, who was just 21 when he won his seat in Stoke Newington.
"My father said this country gave us a helping hand and I should get into politics to give back to the community"
Mete Coban’s energy and commitment is nothing short of inspirational.
At the tender age of 24 he’s already set up his own youth engagement charity, been elected as a councillor, talent spotted for Arsenal and Southampton, and got engaged.
Mete was encouraged to get into politics by his father when he was 14 “to give back to the community”, after his family moved over to the UK from Cyprus so his brother could get medical treatment.
“He said this country gave us a helping hand,” said Mete, who grew up on Downs Estate. “He didn’t tell me which party to join.”
Mete joined the Labour party and ran a youth engagement project at Labour HQ in the run up to the 2010 election, when he met Gordon Brown at Downing Street.
He began to question why young people don’t participate more in elections, and created My Life My Say – which is now a national charity – to “rebrand politics”, and “overcome the misconception” it isn’t relevant to everyday life.
“When you say ‘politics’ to a young person – or anyone – the first thing you think about is Westminster and MPs,” explained Mete.
“But what we are trying to get people to understand is it can mean anything to you – whether you want your train service to run on time or whether the person making the coffee is getting fair pay.”
He decided to run as a councillor when he clocked the average age was 61.
He found as a younger candidate you have to “prove yourself more”.
“The most humbling thing about being elected – and now when I think about it it gives me goose bumps – was the fact people can give me that level of trust at that age,” he said. “It’s really special.”
The most rewarding thing he has found is helping tenants who may be facing eviction. “Knowing you can help someone stay in the borough and seeing them smile as they walk out is the best feeling. Issues like these things lead to the break up of marriages,” he said.
But he doesn’t see politics as a career: “I do it out of love for my community and because I want to make a difference. If you’re selected as an MP it’s about whether people see you right for it, not whether you see yourself as right.”