Cllr George Perfect is a rising star within the local Conservative party. At only 23 he’s already taken on the role of opposition spokesperson for children’s services and education.
But his career in politics isn’t an overnight success he tells our local democracy reporter, Robert Boddy, and it is far from near its end.
George Perfect was only 22 when he was elected to his Rainham North council seat in May, and to some that might seem too young to have enough experience to handle the responsibilities required.
It might seem wrong for the word ‘veteran’ to be applied to a 23-year-old, however, when I met George in the Gun Wharf council building he was keen to impress upon me that by no means was he new to the political scene.
George was born in Medway Maritime Hospital and has lived in or near Medway for almost his entire life, having been educated at Fairview Primary and then The Robert Napier School, before commuting from Medway to study at Westminster University in London.
He tells me Medway has always offered plenty of variety and opportunities right on his doorstep, so he’s never had to go far to engage with things he’s interested in.
“Medway’s a really special place that brings together five really unique towns. We’ve got history, sport, thriving town centres, and amazing country parks and nature reserves.”
But the main thing George is interested in is politics, and although emphasis is often placed on the ‘young’ in young Conservative, he’s actually been involved with some sort of politics since he was 13 when he joined the Medway Youth Council.
A teacher, Mrs Barber, at The Robert Napier School encouraged him to join the youth council, he tells me, and it sparked off an interest he’s pursued ever since.
In his penultimate year of secondary school he became chair of the youth council, then became involved with the youth wing of the Conservative party, campaigning in the EU referendum in 2016 and the general elections in 2017 and 2019.
He was also nominated as chair of school governors for Balfour Junior School in March 2020, just before the pandemic really picked up steam and posed a significant challenge for the education system.
I asked if he had any particular political heroes or inspirations that drove him to get into politics, but he was quite clear he didn’t. Instead, he said, the inspiration and reward for being involved was the differences he could make.
“When I was growing up, I saw a lot of poverty and deprivation around me, and the impact of that on other students’ lives.
“I didn’t think of politics in the sense of a career, it was more about making a difference and giving something back.
“Already in my time as a councillor, I feel I’ve made a difference for the lives of loads of people through casework and through raising the concerns of residents.
“All of the 59 councillors work very hard to serve their community and do right by them, and when you make that difference, you feel a sense of satisfaction.”
To some, the idea of a 23-year-old being drawn to the Conservative party might seem strange, as stereotypically Labour is the party of the young, but George disagrees.
He says that the appeal of the Conservative party is the fact that they represent hard work, with government getting out of the way and letting people succeed on their own.
But politics isn’t the entirety of George’s life, and he describes himself as a keen swimmer.
“Every Sunday morning I have a non-negotiable allotted time to swim. For a few hours I’m able to disconnect from everything which is really good.
“I’m also a big Formula 1 fan too, so I try and catch every race I can, and even get to see them in person every once in a while.”
He also says he likes the typical socialising, going out to the pub with friends when he can.
I asked him what the response is of other young people when he says he’s a young Conservative councillor, but he says it’s never been a big issue.
“People are usually fairly positive about a young person being interested in politics. People do ask me if it’s worth all the stress and public pressure, but that’s just part of it.
“I’ve got many friends who are across the political spectrum, who all have strong views, but I think there’s too much hostility in politics.
”Really, most council business is not about politics, it’s about delivery, and I’m happy to work with anyone, no matter their political stripe, to improve things for Medway.”
George was elected to his Rainham North seat in May, in the local elections that saw the Conservatives lose more than 1,000 seats nationwide. In Medway, they lost full control of the council for the first time since 2003, losing 11 seats.
He acknowledges things could be better for the party, but doesn’t ignore the reasons why voters moved away from them.
He says that the performance of the national party was a significant factor, with the removal of Boris Johnson, then the short-lived premiership of Liz Truss both being damaging to public trust in the Conservatives.
But he still has faith in Rishi Sunak and says the General Election expected next year is by no means a foregone conclusion, and the Conservatives could take back control of Medway Council at the next set of local elections in 2027.
“I think it will be tightly fought, but anyone who thinks they’re home and dry in any election campaign is wrong. Things can always change.”
Speaking of change, the current leader of the Conservative group for Medway Council, Cllr Adrian Gulvin, has said he is only acting as an interim leader until the party is ready to elect a new opposition leader. I asked George if he had this role in his sights.
“We’ll have to see,” he said, laughing. “I can’t see myself standing for it at the moment, the leader of the opposition has my full support, but we’ll see how these things develop.”
George is interested in a long-term career in politics, as long as he’s re-elected in Rainham North, but the idea of standing for a parliamentary seat is still a ways off yet as he’s more interested in serving the people of Medway through the council, particularly through his brief as opposition spokesperson for children’s services and education.
He might be young, but George says this is a great asset as a good council needs to represent a broad range of people and backgrounds to deliver the best results.
When I asked his response to accusations he might, to paraphrase Tory MP Johnny Mercer, make the council look like the cast of Inbetweeners: “Nonsense. We need everyone around the table as far as I’m concerned.”
Yesterday, Robert spoke to Cllr Tristan Osborne and tomorrow, he will be speaking with Labour’s Naushabah Khan, portfolio holder for housing and property, who is aiming to be the next MP for Gillingham and Rainham.