‘By People Electing Me It Has Shot A Crack To The Surface Of The Old Boy’s Club’ – Mhairi Black On Westminster And Politics

The youngest MP for over 100 years was spoke exclusively to The Debrief at the Women In The World summit...

Mhairi Black

by Vicky Spratt |
Published on

Mhairi Black still lives at home and she just turned 21. She was 19 when she joined the SNP and 20 when she won the seat of Paisley and Refrewshire South from the Labour party’s Douglas Alexander, in doing so she became the youngest MP this country has had since the 17th century. Her maiden speech has now been viewed over 10 million times, which has to be a first.

Speaking at the Women In The World summit in London today she said she ‘never had any intention of becoming a politician.’ ‘I only decided to put my name forward in December and here I am – it was never an intention – the referendum in Scotland changed my life.’

So what changed? ‘We lost the referendum’ she said, ‘the political awakening that had happened across Scotland wasn’t going away, people were all of a sudden questioning representatives and political spin wasn’t working anymore.’

But does she enjoys coming down to Westminster every week? No. ‘but that’s one of the great strengths that the SNP have got…it’s hard to get sucked into a bubble that you don’t want to be part of,' she tells The Debrief off stage.

She also said, when the Telegraph’s Emma Barnett asked her what it was like to sit opposite David Cameron every week, ‘to be honest every time when I’m in the chamber and [David Cameron] puts something forward it just serves as a reminder of why I’m there – everything he says – whether it’s policy or sometimes even his sense of humour – I just don’t like it.’

He hasn’t told her to calm down dear – she says ‘I don’t think anyone’s brave enough to do that.’

Being the ‘baby of the house’ might be a daunting prospect you’d think but Mhairi says she’s not nervous when she’s at parliament. ‘When some of the poorest people in our society are being put upon, I’ve got nothing to be nervous about’.

She also said that Jeremy Corbyn’s recent election ‘changes nothing’. ‘Labour has not been an effective opposition for the Tories’, she says. ‘The momentum that built behind his campaign reminded me about the ‘Yes’ campaign [in Scotland], it was all about hope, but I’ve been disappointed.’

Black is one of 32 LGBT MPs in Parliament, previously when asked about her decision to ‘come out as gay’ she has said, ‘I was never in’. Today she said, ‘LGBT rights are the same as women’s rights, as human rights, its about equality.’

When asked if she is a feminist, she replied simply ‘how can you not be a feminist?!”. As a young woman she experiences sexism on a daily basis, she says. The main thing that irritates her, though, is journalists. ‘They ask me about the clothes I wear, where I buy it, what style it is…I think you would never ask a guy that, of what relevance is it?’. She’s right, we so seldom see interviews with male politicians or celebrities where their tie choices are scrutinised in detail.

She says her role models are her grandparents, ‘they were especially strong women, I don’t know how they got through some of the things they did.’

Nicola Sturgeon has said that she could be the next leader of the SNP. What does Mhairi think? ‘It’s flattering but it’s not the point’, she doesn’t see politics as a career, she says she’ll do it as long as she feels like there’s a need.

I asked her when she would feel enough had been accomplished to step away? She says ‘once Scotland has independence I would have to reassess.’

And what’s the most important thing to make a real difference to the lives of real women, in Scotland and elsewhere? ‘The biggest thing is education, education is the key to empowerment.’

Finally does she feel like her election has changed the status quo? That it’s challenging the male dominated culture in Westminster? She tells me ‘I don’t think I am necessarily changing the status quo…but I think by people electing me it has shot a crack to the surface of the old boys club, it’s not shattered it but it’s a crack and what we need is more cracks.’

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Follow Vicky on Twitter @vickyspratt

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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