Mhairi Black: Giving Politics a Makeover


The General Election undoubtedly led to sweeping highs for some and crushing lows for others, but regardless of political stance one thing truly exciting happened over night on Thursday as Mhairi Black became the youngest MP since 1667.

At just 20 years old, the politics student has defeated a Labour heavyweight – taking Paisley and Renfrewshire South from Douglas Alexander, who was first elected when Black was just a toddler. This is a feat that is not to be overlooked as Ewan MacAskill and Rebecca Ratcliffe summed it up:

She was up against one of the best-known Labour MPs left in Scotland, , who was defending a majority of more than 16,000. He was not only shadow foreign secretary but had lots of election experience in abundance, enough to secure him the job of Labour’s UK campaign coordinator.

The fact that Black had the odds stacked against her makes her defeat of Alexander even more impressive and even more refreshing as a sign of a new direction that politics is taking.

Representation was a hotly debated topic in the lead up to the General Election, as huge amounts of young people felt their views just could not be represented by any white, middle class, middle aged man – no matter how good his intentions. However, Black offers an alternative to this model, and in her gracious acceptance speech she pledged:

Whether you voted for the SNP or not, and whatever your views are on Scotland’s future, I will seek to represent you and everyone in this constituency to the very best of my ability. This election is about making the voice of this constituency and the whole of Scotland heard more effectively at Westminster than ever before.

Promising stuff from someone who must know what it feels like to not be able to identify with the people running the country.

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Black’s youth is just one refreshing positive to be taken from her election. She is also a student at Glasgow university, and despite winning the seat at Westminster she will be heading immediately back to university to take the final exam of her undergraduate politics degree.

Equally, Black is representative of an even bigger change in British politics, as Thursday’s General Election saw the Scottish National Party, headed by Nicola Sturgeon, take 56 of the 59 Scottish seats in Westminster. Black herself described this change as she saw it, stating:

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For years Scotland’s been sleepwalking to the polls, it was always ‘vote Labour, keep out the Tories, vote Labour, keep out the Tories’, but then the referendum came and suddenly everyone woke up. Door after door I chap on, I’m coming across Labour voters just saying they’re totally scunnered with them.

Black’s victory signals a shift in the gender structure of British politics. This parliament is set to include a record number of women – about 30% of MPs, compared with fewer than 25% in the last parliament, and whilst this  is still a way to go in terms of complete gender equality, it’s a big improvement on the 22% elected previously.

The final triumph for Mhairi is that she is a politician who has grown up in the age of social media. Almost instantly after being elected, the infinite powers of twitter had found some of her old tweets aged 14, notably the eloquently put ‘maths is shite’. Meanwhile some papers latched onto this as some kind of downfall to Black’s success, when in reality it seems to work in her favour, as she becomes even more relatable than the ‘honourable friends’ we’re used to seeing making fools of themselves on social media (sorry Ed Balls – it’s not just you, I personally am a huge fan of ‘Ed Balls Day’).

All in all, it seems Mhairi is the fresh face politics needed and it seems she’s set to shake up the benches of the House of Commons, which can only be a positive thing.

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