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Hull student becomes youngest elected woman in UK history at just 21


Watch out Dick Whittington - Selby’s streets might not be paved with gold, but there’s a new mayor determined to make her fortune there, and she's believed to be the youngest elected woman in UK history.

Most 21-year-old students are either enjoying the hazy days after dissertation hand-in, or are revising hard for their exams. But forget graduation robes and mortar boards, because last week student Rosie Corrigan, donned a very different kind of ceremonial clobber - the Mayor of Selby’s chains.

Corrigan’s election is all the more surprising given that she’s not exactly taking charge of a feminist hotspot. Selby, a market town in North Yorkshire, is the antithesis of cosmopolitan. It’s small, sleepy and has more than its fair share of charity shops. It’s probably not the kind of place you’d visit unless you were passing through.

However, following Corrigan’s election, it’s set to receive far more attention. Labour party member Corrigan, who has just finished her penultimate year of a politics degree at Hull University, was elected uncontested to the mayoralty on Monday 19 May. Her election followed a year’s service as Deputy Mayor.

"I feel absolutely honoured," she said. "The council have chosen a younger mayor, and I’m going to use my year in office to encourage young people in Selby to take part in their community."

Corrigan has lived in Selby her entire life. Although it’s not a wealthy area, the town is politically active - voting turnout for the Selby and Ainsty constituency was 71.5 per cent in the 2010 general election, and Corrigan has benefited from getting involved in politics from a young age.

"It sounds silly, but I first got involved in politics because of tuna paninis. A group of classmates in my form at school were whining about not being able to find their favourite sandwich in the canteen. So I thought - why not do something about it? I ran for school council with a single-policy manifesto: to get paninis on the menu. And I won - and caught the bug!"

From school council, she co-founded Selby Youth council and was as a member of UK Youth Parliament, and in 2011, at the age of was 18, she ran for the local council elections as a Labour candidate. Having won her election, she then stood for the role of Deputy Mayor in 2013. And then, after serving her year, on 19 May she ran uncontested to become Mayor at the annual town council meeting.

Confirmed feminist Corrigan believes it’s now her job to put Selby on the map: "A lot of people put the town down, but it’s got a really rich history. And I hope my election has proved that we’re a forward thinking town, which doesn’t judge on age or gender."

Previous illustrious Selby residents include Henry I, who was born in the town, and Robert Aske, who led the famous Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 and was subsequently executed at Clifford’s Tower in York.

Young Labour Chair Simon Darvill hopes that Corrigan will prove to be an inspiration. He said: "I hope that the success of Rosie and others like her encourages more young people to get involved in politics and change where they live for the better."

She also has the backing of former deputy PM John Prescott, who she says provided her with much support when she served as Chair of Hull University’s Labour society.

For now, she’s just excited to get going. As she says, "the mayoral chains are a heavy piece of Selby history and now my name will be carved on them too."