A common complaint from young voters in the UK is that there is virtually no diversity within the house of commons, and therefore only a proportion of society is actually represented. The typical picture painted of a politician is a white, middle class man in his fifties with traditional and conservative view points. Admittedly this description does seem to coincide with the majority of MP’s, however, brace yourselves, because I am here to tell you that it does not fit everybody.
Introducing Mhairi Black. A twenty-three-year-old SNP politician from a Paisley, which out of 7000 areas in Scotland was rated as the worst place to live due to poverty. The youngest member in the House of commons since at least 1832 personifies difference, her appearance in politics is long awaited, and her fresh perspective is much needed. It is clear to see Black is not afraid of a challenge but completely and utterly devoted to her cause, elected at just twenty years old whilst still studying a degree in Politics and Public Policy, she later went on to graduate from The University of Glasgow with first class honours.
After winning the 2015 election she became the youngest politician to be elected in 185 years, her youth is not the only unconventional aspect of this young woman. When questioned about ‘coming out’ as being gay she frankly replied, “I was never in” – this blunt honesty is something desperately required in the political world and her openness acts as a breath of fresh air, opposed to the spin doctoring we normally see. Here we have a politician that grew up in a different generation, in one where homosexuality is not seen as a hindrance or some sort of secret, one that grew up with people accepting her for simply being herself despite what she has accomplished (which is undeniably phenomenal) and one who will hopefully bring these ideals with her into the political world.
Mhairi Black’s speeches have often found themselves on social media being shared extensively, in one case a speech about food banks received over 10 million views, perhaps due to her much-loved feistiness. Watching this young woman so passionately argue her cases fills viewers with hope, hope that we do have at least some of the right people in charge, hope that we are being heard and understood by those in power, and hope that her fight and spark will carry her through, enabling the changes that need to happen.
So, not only is Black opposing political frameworks for simply being a female, working class, determined and homosexual politician, she also openly opposes the political operating system. This spirited Scott has actively criticised Westminster’s practice, pointing out that in order to vote MPs have to do it in person which instead of resulting in higher voting rates, has instead diminished them due to many MP’s not bothering to turn up at all. Describing the whole system as “so excluded from reality” she is actively proposing changes to the way things are run, suggesting an electronic voting system to influence those lucky enough, and make it as easy as possible for those who have are entitled to actually use it.
In her October 2017 speech about alterations to the benefits system and the proposal to roll out universal credit Black called the concept “arrogant and idiotic” and ended her fearless and factual speech warning the government to “halt it, and halt it now”. She explained that the government was acting like a vindictive loan shark who instead of being repaid is coming after its victims in terms of their stability, mental health, physical wellbeing and ultimately their sense of security. She criticised the government’s attitude towards the economic climate and reemphasises the fact that it was those in power who created this enormous debt and exposes their poor actions. Black bluntly summarised “we are not dealing with the national debt, we’re simply shifting it onto vulnerable households” and creates a voice for those who have been silenced.
Instead of praising government actions like many in her position do, she really acts as the spokesperson for the public, unlike most in power Mhairi does not feel distant from the public or entitled by her status. Black really is the people’s person.