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Junior mastermind: early start means Callum Purves has time on his side

Callum Purves.

Many university students hold down a part-time job during their studies, but Callum Purves was orchestrating election victories while an undergraduate.

His involvement began on weekend visits home to Kinross-shire in the run-up to the 2015 general election, helping Perth and North Perthshire candidate Alexander Stewart.

“I did a lot, initially standing on street stalls and things like that in Perth, and then going to doing more canvassing, and once I had done that, I got more and more involved in the organisation,” he said.

Mr Stewart could not make the breakthrough but, with a campaign run by Mr Purves, he stood again at the Holyrood election of the following year in Clackmannanshire and Dunblane, and on the Mid Scotland and Fife regional list, succeeding in the latter.

At the Perth & Kinross Council election count in Bells Sports Centre, Perth, are Mike Barncale, left, and Callum Purves, centre.

Mr Purves went on to mastermind his own election to Perth and Kinross Council in 2017, while still an economics student at St Andrews University.

And then, a few weeks later, he managed the campaign that led to Stephen Kerr’s 148-vote victory in Stirling at the snap Westminster vote of the same year.

He continues to work for the Conservative Party central office as a campaign manager, while also representing Kinross-shire on the council.

I think, for the future, the world is his oyster. He has got opportunities galore to progress in the party at an official level.”

His former boss, Mr Stewart, said: “I think he has great potential. He has great knowledge and insight into the election system and how elections work, so he has that attribute.

“He also has the knowledge, because he is now a councillor himself, so he has been elected, and has gone through the process of being a candidate and actually being elected to office at a relatively young age.

Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Alexander Stewart.

“That is something to be very much welcomed and I think, for the future, the world is his oyster.

“He has got opportunities galore to progress in the party at an official level, because he still does some work on behalf of the party in central office, as well as having his role in the local Conservative group within the council.

“As a young man who has the attributes and the skills that he has learned since being a student, and now putting them into practice in a role being one of the community leaders, gives him a huge opportunity for future development within the organisation and the party.”

Scottish independence referendum a starting point

Born in Perth, Mr Purves went to school at Kinross, where his politics began to develop from a young age.

Councillor Callum Purves.

“I’m not entirely sure where my interest in politics came from. We always talked about news and politics in the house when I was growing up with my parents,” he said.

“The earliest memory I have of something like that was probably watching the 2010 general election, and I was involved in debating at high school, and particularly in history classes and things like that, there were a lot of debates about politics.

The first proper political campaigning that I did, and I think it would be similar with a lot of people my age, and even in older people now who have just come into politics, was during the Scottish independence referendum.”

“The first proper political campaigning that I did, and I think it would be similar with a lot of people my age, and even in older people now who have just come into politics, was during the Scottish independence referendum.

“Because that was something that I cared very much about and was very passionate about, making sure Scotland remained in the United Kingdom.

“That was where I started doing work on street stalls and delivering leaflets and things like that.

The Scottish independence referendum vote count at Perth.

“Nothing too much in the way of organisation, but more just boots on the ground type of thing, and helping out, only in Kinross-shire, really.”

Tory group suspension

Mr Purves was 17 at the time of the referendum, enabling him to vote, and he had just left school and was on his way to university.

Since being elected to the council he has remained concerned about the level of “waste and inefficiency” in local government, although he would like to see more powers devolved from Holyrood to councils.

While continuing to work for the national party, Mr Purves and a colleague hit the headlines when they were suspended from the council’s Tory group over the handling of a chaotic health board meeting last summer.

Mr Purves highlighted the fact that his party’s new national leader was also suspended from the Tory group on Moray Council in 2014.

“It’s a local group matter. To be honest, Douglas Ross, it’s quite interesting, in 2014 he was in the same situation with his group,” he said.

“I’m not deliberately drawing a comparison with the new leader, but the point is, it does happen and we just get on with it.”

Douglas Ross, left, and Angus Robertson.

Could Mr Purves further emulate Mr Ross by following him to Westminster or Holyrood one day?

“There could possibly be something in the future. I would certainly like to try to get some experience in other areas,” he said.

“I think a lot of the time, and particularly when you’re working for the party, one opportunity comes up after another and you just kind of go along with it.

“But I would like to try to get some experience in business or the private sector before I consider something like that.”

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