Graeme McKenzie was in his early teens when he first felt the need to take a stand on a point of principle in politics.
Incensed at the consequences of welfare reforms being driven through at Westminster, the youngster decided to raise his concerns with the prime minister.
“I remember being so angry that the Tories got elected in 2010 and then it must have been about 2012 when they did all the benefits cuts and things like that,” he recalled.
“I was really upset about it and actually wrote a letter to David Cameron basically saying, ‘I’d like to see you live off what you’re going to be putting people on’.”
Mr McKenzie received a response, although not from the prime minister, but his neighbour at Downing Street, the then-chancellor, George Osborne.
“He basically said, ‘thanks for getting in touch, and it’s good that young people are getting involved in politics’,” he said.
Mr Osborne was correct, in that it did mark the beginning of the young Dundonian’s involvement in politics, although the Conservatives were never very likely to be the beneficiary.
‘Bit of stick’ for indyref stance
Mr McKenzie again displayed that he was unafraid to stand up for his beliefs in his later years at school, when Scottish independence came to be debated ahead of the 2014 referendum.
The majority of his family was voting Yes, as were most of his classmates, but Mr McKenzie stuck to his guns.
“That’s really what spurred it (his interest in politics), because obviously the debate about the independence referendum had come around and I had staunchly said that I was a No voter from when that first came around,” he said.
“I think I was one of three No voters who were eligible to vote at school, so I got quite a bit of stick for it, as you can imagine. I was in the minority, at school.
I think I was one of three No voters who were eligible to vote at school, so I got quite a bit of stick for it, as you can imagine.”
“I just thought, ‘if everything was going well, as it was, there wasn’t any reason to change it’.
“But then it wasn’t until I started looking into it and there were a lot of questions that couldn’t be answered.
“I mean, there are still not any answers for them. Things like basing your whole economy on the whisky trade and the oil revenue when, in actual fact, as we saw after the referendum, the oil plummeted.”
He added: “I’m glad I stuck my ground and was able to take part in probably the biggest vote in my lifetime.”
Mr McKenzie’s opposition to the SNP only strengthened a few weeks after the referendum when the Nationalist-run city council controversially proposed closing his school, Menzieshill High.
A phone call from Jenny Marra…
“I’ve always shared the views of the Labour Party,” he said.
“Growing up I was told, ‘never vote Tory’. And it was after 2014 that I realised that the SNP really just stands for independence, so I couldn’t get on board with them; plus, they were proposing to close my school.
“Just seeing the work the Labour Party was doing in Dundee at the time made me take the leap and join.
“It was 2015 when I joined. I was in school one day and I got a phone call from Jenny Marra, obviously Michael Marra was candidate in 2015, to go out campaigning that night as well.
“That is what spurred it on. So people have got that phone call from Jenny to blame for me being involved in politics.”
Having left school in 2016, Mr McKenzie started working on the pizza counter at Asda, and three years ago became an optical adviser.
But throughout that time he has been campaigning for Labour locally, including serving as election agent for city councillors Michael Marra and Charlie Malone in 2017.
Mr Marra said: “Graeme started campaigning with Labour in his mid-teens when the SNP were closing down his high school.
“He was immediately brilliant with local people on the doorstep. His politics are deeply practical as well as principled.
“I am always struck by his thirst to understand how power works and how it can help people.”
Proud moment in politics
The young activist’s willingness to stand up for his beliefs led to a storm last year, after he urged local Labour members to support calls for the party’s general election candidate, Jim Malone, to be suspended over remarks that were branded anti-Semitic.
He was threatened with disciplinary action over his involvement but, as was the case with the coalition cuts and the independence referendum, Mr McKenzie refused to back down.
“One of the proudest moments I’ve had in politics locally was standing up against my own candidate at a general election,” he said.
“I always say politicians should be able to go against party line or stand up against their own party if something is wrong or they disagree with it.
“This is something I have done and would do again.”
Having been involved, in one way or another, in various electoral events since 2014, Mr McKenzie has now put himself forward for selection to be the Labour candidate in the Dundee City East seat at next year’s election.
“It has been a whirlwind of things to do, and I’ve enjoyed doing it, and optical is a good career and I will stick it out, but I wouldn’t mind going further in politics as well, and being able to do the right thing for people,” he said when asked about his ambitions.
“Everybody that is involved in politics from a party perspective would be lying if they said they didn’t have any ambition to become a politician.
If I get the chance to stand, I will, and it would be a privilege to represent the people of Dundee.”
“So, yeah, I would love to be a councillor or an MSP, primarily to do the right thing.
“I’ve seen first hand how the SNP in Dundee don’t actually represent what people in Dundee want half the time. It just makes me want to do it.
“If I get the chance to stand, I will, and it would be a privilege to represent the people of Dundee, in my eyes.”