A war of words has erupted over the age of a teenage council hopeful standing in the local election.
At 19 years old, law student Carl Johnson is the youngest candidate ever to represent Tyneside’s Labour party as he fights for a seat in the Battle Hill ward.
But after just weeks on the campaign trail, while at the same time revising for exams, Wallsend-born Carl believes he has become the victim of age discrimination from a rival councillor.
A leaflet written by current ward representative Focus Group candidate Chris Croft, distributed to hundreds of homes and seen by the Chronicle incorrectly refers to Carl as an 18-year-old school leaver. It also goes on to explain he is a law student about to “embark on the most important time of his life”.
But first year student Northumbria University student Carl, 19, believes the leaflet to be a deliberate attack on his age to turn voters against him. He said: “He’s firstly discriminating against me and also against an entire group of people my age.
“The leaflet also points out the fact I’m a student, which I think infers that I would struggle being a councillor alongside my studies.
“He is a director of his own company so he’s going to be busy himself for some of the week, but I didn’t mention that in any of my leaflets, I didn’t label him.”
But councillor Croft, who has represented the ward for four years, denies he brought up his age to be negative and is concerned the Labour Party have placed too much responsibility on him as he completes his studies.
“In none of his leaflets did it say anything about his age. There was no reference to his age other than him being ‘a young man’.
“I feel his party have put him under a lot of pressure to combine the two because I speak from experience having a son that’s just gone through a law degree I know how much effort he will put in.”
Councillor Croft’s leaflet was triggered by earlier campaign material sent out by Carl especially targeting voters in the ward under 27 years old.
Carl is the son of Julie and John Johnson and lives at Hazlewood Terrace.
Eddie Darke, an agent for Tyneside’s Labour Party said: “I’ve known Carl for two years, and he’s a very bright young man and I have great regard for his intellect. He’s been tremendous in Battle Hill, helping out with door knocking and at surgeries.
“I think it’s insulting to anybody to have your age mention, it’s a very personal attack.”
Article from Chronicle live