15 Jul 2015

Mhairi Black takes Westminster by storm single handed

It is hard, if not impossible,to remember an MP making the political and verbal splash in his or her maiden speech that Mhairi Black achieved yesterday in the Commons.

Breathtakingly well-delivered, strong, pithy, and political of content – with a unique personal attack on the housing policies in the chancellor’s budget proposals.

But what sets Mhairi Black apart is the impact she has had on social media – an impact that no other MP has ever achieved on this scale. And nor could they.

The arrival of 20 year old Ms Black in the Commons has served to expose the bitter truth that for most young people in Britain, the place is neither of interest nor relevance to their daily lives. The antics, the language, the performance, the noise, the voting system, and the arcane practices, leave many voters cold, especially of Ms Black’s age.

Mhairi Black spoke as most of the rest of us do – in comprehensible language addressing the issues and the hypocrisies that we all tend to end up raking over in the pub.

Ms Black is a child of the 1990s – she was born in the digital age, yet there is all but no signal in the Commons that she has joined, or the Lords, that the age has ever dawned.

When our elected representatives vote they don’t do it as we do – online. Instead “whips” marshal them all through the “lobby” and count them physically one by one. It’s a process that takes 10 to 15 minutes every time.
My own experience reporting in Scotland for both the referendum and the general election was that the vote for the SNP was less about Scotland, than about profound alienation. Many feel alienated from a democratic depot that does not even look like the lives they lead – full of white males who bark like dogs.

Despite Mhairi Black’s arrival, there have still not yet been enough women MPs elected, since women got the vote in 1918, to fill a House of Commons. Today at 191, women MPs represent less than a third of all MPs.

There should be more younger MPs like her, more women, more who represent our multicultural society, and above all more who live life in concert with the first quarter of the 21st century.

Now the building is falling down around them. Sooner or later they will have to move out. In doing so they should seize the chance to bring their institution, their behaviour, and their politics into tune with the lives that the rest of us live. That’s what Mhairi Black has achieved, and in doing so she proved that it CAN be done.

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