Mhairi Black shocked the political world when at the 2015 General Election, she won the Paisley and Renfrewshire South constituency for the SNP, from Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander. In a night of SNP domination in Scotland, 20 year old student Mhairi Black’s comprehensive victory over one of British politics most senior figures, symbolised best the political shift in Scotland, and the disenfranchisement the country had felt in a Labour Party that had so evidently taken them for granted.
‘Out of touch’, ‘Westminster Bubble’, ‘C*nts’, are just some of the words and phrases thrown at the modern British MP, and often rightly so. However, since the 2015 General Election, Black has represented the antithesis of the typical MP. The 20 year old has marched into Westminster, along with the other 49 new SNP MP’s, with a view to shake up the established order. Her diary of her first week in parliament highlighted why so many have become infatuated with her brand of politics, but also the Westminster environment that turns so many good MP’s sour:
“Sitting out on the Terrace in the London sunshine I began to realise how people do become sucked into the Westminster establishment. Westminster is a bubble. It is closed off from the reality, which surrounds it. As I was walking about enjoying the artwork and the history in the pillars, which surrounded me, I continually had to bring things back to reality in my own head. This is not a museum. It is a place of work. Whilst I may be enjoying the sunshine in impressive and comfortable surroundings in the heart of the world famous Palace of Westminster, there are still children going to bed hungry in Paisley.” You can read the rest of her diary here
The passion in which Mhairi Black represents her predominantly working class constituency (1 in 5 people are unemployed, third highest use of food banks) is refreshing, an unfortunate reality check on the state of a lot of our current representatives. Black has shown this passion in no greater way than her maiden speech in the commons, which you can watch here:
But the relevance of Mhairi Black does not end at the passion of her ideology. To this day, parliament and the representatives we elect every five years do not truly represent us as a society. The average age of current Members of Parliament is 50. There are currently 27 BME MP’s, the number should be closer to 117 if it was a fair representation of the wider British population. Despite making up half of the population, there are currently only 191 female MP’s out of 650.
There are many problems within the British political system, but one of the largest of all being that our parliament is a frankly insulting sea of old, white, males, tasked with representing one of the most multi cultural societies on the planet. We need more youngsters to represent… Young people. We need more BME candidates, who truly understand the struggles that minorities still fight against to this day, to represent… Minorities. You get the picture.
Whilst Mhairi Black will see herself simply as a girl from Paisley, who just wants to make life a bit easier for the people of her constituency, she is a gleaming beacon of the diversity that we need in order to truly represent our society. Unless our political parties start to put forward more diverse candidates, we will never be able to have true representation.