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Labour MP and UEL alumna Kate Osamor urges students to engage with politics

UEL students

Former student is one of three UEL alumni on the Labour benches at the House of Commons

Member of Parliament and University of East London (UEL) alumna Kate Osamor has urged young people to inform themselves about politics and get out and vote.

The very low participation rate of young people in politics and their consequent disengagement are high on her priority list, Ms Osamor told an audience of students during a seminar at UEL.

She said one of the main reasons why young people were not more involved in politics was because they were sceptical that things would ever get better for them, especially in terms of student fees, debts and the housing crisis.

She urged UEL students to use as many resources as possible to form an opinion and then make a decision.

“Politics belong to all of us and the only way young people can change legislation and policy is by having a political mouthpiece,” she said. “If no-one says anything and young people stay in the margins, then it’s back to usual business.”

Ms Osamor admitted that, like many young people, she too initially shied away from politics. But she realised she needed to be actively involved if she wanted to make a difference in her community.

“One of the biggest triggers for me to get involved in politics was when someone who wanted to be a local councillor in my ward knocked on my door and said he was going to have a section meeting in the church and asked me to come along and vote for him,” she said.

“I realised I didn’t even know who my councillors were and knew this was a bad thing because these people made decisions on my behalf.”

Ms Osamor is one of three UEL alumni – along with Rupa Huq and Alison Seabeck – who currently sit on the Labour benches in the House of Commons.

Ms Osamor graduated from UEL with a BA degree in International Development: The Third World. She began working for the Big Issue, a magazine sold by homeless and long-term unemployed people, and various organisations in the voluntary sector. She also chaired board of governors at a local school. She worked for the NHS on the administrative side for 15 years before entering into politics.

In 2014, Ms Osamor was elected as a member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party and in 2015 as MP for Edmonton, north London. She was recently appointed as Shadow Junior Minister for Women and Equalities.

 “I didn’t think I was going to become an MP,” she said. “But politics has always been in my house. I may have suppressed the capability at first but because of my mother I knew how to do things.”

Ms Osamor’s mother was a former deputy leader of Haringey Council, a community leader and activist.

Ms Osamor said she wanted to challenge barriers and be the voice of the vulnerable and unheard people. In particularly, she said she wanted to especially tackle issues around Edmonton and leave her mark on Parliament.