Signposts or weathercocks
July 14, 2015 12:45 PM   Subscribe

After the recent rout of the Labour Party by the Scottish National Party (SNP), at the age of 20, Mhairi Black became the UK's youngest MP since the Reform Act of 1832. Her maiden speech to the House of Commons is a witty, sharp, unsparing account of how Labour failed Scotland and the UK, generally.
posted by a lungful of dragon (57 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is there a transcript of this anywhere?
posted by SansPoint at 12:56 PM on July 14, 2015


Great speech.

It's interesting that she said that SNP success wasn't due to nationalism, but to hope, and that she reached out so straightforwardly to Labour.
posted by clawsoon at 1:10 PM on July 14, 2015


Is there a transcript of this anywhere?

Hansard is here. You'll need to scroll down.
posted by Thing at 1:12 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow, she's pretty damn impressive.
posted by biffa at 1:13 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


The problem with signposts is sometimes they point in the wrong direction, but at least once you know you know.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:22 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


What does this comment from the Madam Deputy Speaker directly after the speech mean?
Order. The hon. Lady has just made an excellent speech—particularly her reference to William Wallace and Elderslie, where I was also born—but the House will show its appreciation in a way other than clapping. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] The House—[Hon. Members: “Aye!”] Yes, the House can show its appreciation vociferously—just do not clap.
posted by Ian A.T. at 1:25 PM on July 14, 2015


Clapping is banned in Parliament. You must jeer and hoot like a chimp instead.
posted by Thing at 1:26 PM on July 14, 2015 [40 favorites]


Applause is seriously high praise -- it's actually considered unparliamentary conduct and the Speaker does calls it out, but for the chamber to applaud a maiden speech is almost unheard of.

The problem with signposts is sometimes they point in the wrong direction, but at least once you know you know.

I'd much rather an honest, principled member of the opposition than a fair-weather ally. You can at least trust the member of the opposition who stays true to their principles.
posted by eriko at 1:26 PM on July 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


On the other hand, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?", etc.
posted by clawsoon at 1:28 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Foodbanks are not part of the wellfare state, they are a symbol that the wallfare state is failing".

Wow, let's see that sentiment on this side of the pond.
posted by Phredward at 1:28 PM on July 14, 2015 [24 favorites]


Man oh man is the UK screwed by this. We are talking decades of the Tories in command. Imagine 5 Thatchers in a row.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:30 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fucken-a, this is so awesome! We need more of that!
posted by growabrain at 1:33 PM on July 14, 2015


Brilliant, fantastic. Long may she advocate, represent, speak out, and fight.
posted by rtha at 1:34 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wow, let's see that sentiment on this side of the pond.

Well, it is certainly a powerful part of the speech, in the context of austerity measures leveled on the Greek public by Germany, the UK, etc. that everyone is slowly realizing do not seem to work as advertised.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:35 PM on July 14, 2015


Ah, I wondered why my unionist friends were all hurf-durf tweeting about how dare she even mention the Sainted Name of Tony today. Good speech.

The UK is now at best an aspiration. Atlee's Britain worth dying for is long gone.
posted by scruss at 1:38 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


pplause is seriously high praise -- it's actually considered unparliamentary conduct and the Speaker does calls it out, but for the chamber to applaud a maiden speech is almost unheard of.

Sadly the chamber was mostly empty apart from the SNP, and they've been chastised for clapping multiple times since joining, so in this case it's not quite the praise it would otherwise have been.
posted by bonaldi at 1:43 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Even the Daily Mail is calling it one of the best maiden speeches of the parliament.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:50 PM on July 14, 2015


The SNP are actually making a point of clapping, in order to snub the noses of established parliamentarians.

Man oh man is the UK screwed by this. We are talking decades of the Tories in command. Imagine 5 Thatchers in a row.

The Labour party have failed to distinguish themselves as anything but Tory-lite (and sometimes, not all that lite) for quite some time now. They have continually failed all of their core constituents, which is why the SNP now have a heavy presence in parliament, and most people voting for the current Labour party do it whilst holding their noses.
posted by The River Ivel at 1:56 PM on July 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Even the Daily Mail is calling it one of the best maiden speeches of the parliament.

Really? Forgive me for saying so, but does anybody really listen to speeches in Parliament any more, let alone maiden speeches? I used to watch PMQs but got bored of the charade. Never enlightening and seldom rousing. Even Very Black's speech was no shakes. Gone are the days of civis romanus sum...whatever ill it was put to.
posted by Thing at 2:00 PM on July 14, 2015


Really? Forgive me for saying so, but does anybody really listen to speeches in Parliament any more, let alone maiden speeches? I used to watch PMQs but got bored of the charade. Never enlightening and seldom rousing. Even Very Black's speech was no shakes. Gone are the days of civis romanus sum...whatever ill it was put to.

"Civis romanus sum" is like great antique furniture and old buildings - we see them and think, "Wow, stuff was built a lot better back then!" But, in fact, there were only a few things that were well-built back then, and they survived, while the 99% of old speeches and furniture and buildings that were shit are long forgotten.

TLDR: You would've been bored by the vast majority of speeches in Old Rome, too.
posted by clawsoon at 2:06 PM on July 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


Mhairi Black is generally a rousing public speaker. I was urged to seek out her other public speaking at the behest of a Paisley-dwelling friend whose entire family switched from lifelong Labour voting to supporting Mhairi Black in the recent election (Paisley is Black's constituency).

My friend met Black during the recent campaign - and also observed that Mhairi Black was back in Paisley recently to partake in the annual Sma Shot celebrations - a public festival celebrating 19th century weavers winning workers' rights against their employers. Paisley has a radical political history and Black is certainly part of that.

I am glad to see her featured on Metafilter.
posted by kariebookish at 2:13 PM on July 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Man oh man is the UK screwed by this. We are talking decades of the Tories in command. Imagine 5 Thatchers in a row.

Seriously. I can't believe this fool had the gall to say that we should be housing and feeding the poor. Now we're going to get decades of the UK not housing or feeding the poor, as a result. What she should have said was that the poor need to starve in the streets, and then the Five Evil Thatchers foretold by legend would have remained sealed in their sarcophagi.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:15 PM on July 14, 2015 [40 favorites]


Man oh man is the UK screwed by this. We are talking decades of the Tories in command. Imagine 5 Thatchers in a row.

I think you have to make some very strong assumptions about some unknowable factors in order to make that pronouncement. Most particularly the global economy. I'm not sure that this government will fair well in any kind of major downturn, given its insistence of stifling growth at every opportunity. Our government are the absolute opposite of long-term thinkers. Which is a pretty good strategy, given their aim of smashing up as much of the postwar consensus as possible, but unlikely to end up with decades of power, even if the Scots never vote Labour again. The anti Tory vote will be considerably less split in England, going forward. Given a few well timed Tory deaths and a decent riot or two this government could be in serious trouble in a couple of years.

Or maybe not. We'll just have to see what happens and keep fighting for decency and kindness. And wait for the Labour Party to wake the fuck up...
posted by howfar at 2:15 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


You'll know you've succeeded not when you've pulled Labour back, but when you've transformed the Tories.

The Tories did it to Labour - New Labour was Margaret Thatcher's greatest accomplishment, remember? - so set your sights on doing it back to the Tories.
posted by clawsoon at 2:23 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'd argue that the neoliberal myth of the end of history did it to Labour. So...yes, it's definitely possible that the Tories will end up somewhere analogous to where they were 40 years ago, as it becomes apparent that human history is only going to end with our extinction.
posted by howfar at 2:32 PM on July 14, 2015


Even the Daily Mail is calling it one of the best maiden speeches of the parliament.

I liked Nas Shah's myself.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:32 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Man, I could listen to her speak for hours. Things I agree with and an amazing accent? Fantastic.
posted by clockbound at 2:47 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I remember saying to my flatmates before the 2010 election that the SNP should run candidates on all English electorates, win, and then declare Greater Scotland. I still think that.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:14 PM on July 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


Really? Forgive me for saying so, but does anybody really listen to speeches in Parliament any more...
Yes, we do, every night on Radio 4, a little bit before we listen to sailing by.

And Bravo to Mhairi Black, parliament needs another Tony Benn.
posted by Dr Ew at 3:22 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?", etc.

True, but the "weathercocks" Tony Benn was referring to were more along the lines of "When what my advisors tell me about focus groups and opinion polls changes, I change my mind". Which is a far more common way to do it...
posted by eykal at 3:29 PM on July 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


> "Now we're going to get decades of the UK not housing or feeding the poor, as a result."

If the Labour party had won every single seat in Scotland, there would still be a Tory government right now.

On the other hand, if Labour seats and SNP seats combined outnumbered the Tory seats, there would be a Labour/SNP coalition government right now.

Rather than losing a single seat for such a coalition, the SNP would have actually added 10 seats to it that it took away from the Tory/Lib Dem coalition, very nearly every single seat they could possible have added to it (12 would have been the highest possible number.) Labour didn't add enough seats elsewhere for that to matter.

Blaming the SNP for the current government seems weird to me.
posted by kyrademon at 3:54 PM on July 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


It very much suits the Unionist parties to bang on about waves of nationalism and that everything the SNP does is in order to split the Union up. It was a story that helped sink Labour in the election (although, god knows, it was busy opening the sea-cocks as fast as it could anyway), and it neatly avoids having to confront the alternative - if it's not true, then why did an entire country turn its back on politics as usual?

And it's not true. The latest polls show two things - the SNP is on course to increase its majority in the Scottish parliament in the forthcoming elections, and that the majority of Scots still do not want independence. Tne SNP knows this. It was elected in a massive landslide by people who do not believe in austerity. Why did that not happen south of the border? Is it that there is a huge philosophical jump-cut as soon as you get to Berwick? No, it's that there was nobody credible to vote for.

Now, it's facile to suggest that an English SNP - or a compatible Labour party - could have done what the SNP did. The political landscape down here is very different and far more diverse, and there are a lot of reasons that the Tories have a much bigger share of the vote, regardless of Labour. But the Tories do not have an unassailably large share of the vote. First past the post - and the way the constituencies are formed - delivers large prizes without that.

For the Left to regroup, it needs to show that austerity is not economically viable in the long run, that inequality is the larger enemy, and that compassion is the greater good for the greater number. It's a positive message. People are ready to hear that. I certainly believe that it's got at least as much economic rigour (actually, much more) than the alternative, and if you combine it with a commitment to reform at least some of the manifold faults of the basic political mechanisms, I can see it mobilising a lot of people who right now are out of the game due to cynicism and despair. That's what did it for the SNP - the referendum re-engaged the electorate, who suddenly found themselves taken seriously and able to make changes. They didn't want the change the referendum was about, but they woke up and realised that they could and would be heard about what they did want.

It was a great speech, and it was the voice of a people who believe they can speak and be heard. If the SNP can keep that sort of message coming out in Westminster, then it may yet prove contagious. The other parties are still banging on about the scary, guilty, perfidious Scots (what! They dare to actually VOTE in Parliament? See how evil!), which will only accentuate what the SNP is actually saying.

Ironically, it may even be the sort of message that saves the Union. But first, England must save itself.
posted by Devonian at 4:09 PM on July 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


the "weathercocks" Tony Benn was referring to were more along the lines of "When what my advisors tell me about focus groups and opinion polls changes, I change my mind". Which is a far more common way to do it...

It is also notable that Benn's views shifted more than those of most politicians over the course of his career. But was open and honest about these changes, and his principles seemed to remain constant. Principled people are valuable, even when one disagrees with then. For me, the important thing about Benn was that he was the most committed democrat in the history of Parliament. He genuinely and passionately believed in the sovereignty and wisdom of the people. He did not believe in conning people out of their votes, he believed that sound policies, properly argued for, would eventually carry the day. He believed that a mandate to govern could only derive from such informed assent.

He had more faith in the wisdom of the populace than I can muster most days, but I think he had a point. If politicians want to claim the authority to make laws, they must be honest and reliable representatives. The voters have to know what they are voting for, and be able to trust it to remain consistent. Weathercocks are not serving those who elected them at the last election, but rather wooing those whom they hope to trick at the next. It's not just personally unprincipled, it's also antidemocratic.

I disagree with a huge amount of what Tony Benn believed. But at least I know what he believed in order to be able to disagree.
posted by howfar at 4:12 PM on July 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Now we're going to get decades of the UK not housing or feeding the poor, as a result."


That particular comment was facetious as far as I can tell. I think everyone apart from Ironmouth agrees on this....
posted by howfar at 4:15 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


> "That particular comment was facetious as far as I can tell."

Ah, I believe you are correct. Hearing the argument actually made seriously earlier in the thread seems to have broken my irony meter. Sorry, Greg Nog.
posted by kyrademon at 4:19 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


. . .does anybody really listen to speeches in Parliament any more, let alone maiden speeches?

This American is a faithful Question Time viewer, whenever I can catch it on CSPAN. It's a real pleasure to watch the English language used so adroitly in Parliament in comparison to what we get in Congress nowadays. (And I enjoy all the cheers and jeers from the benches.)
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:40 PM on July 14, 2015


For the Left to regroup, it needs to show that austerity is not economically viable in the long run, that inequality is the larger enemy, and that compassion is the greater good for the greater number. It's a positive message. People are ready to hear that. ... I can see it mobilising a lot of people who right now are out of the game due to cynicism and despair.

I've been half-following the labour leadership tussle, and Jeremy Corbyn is making a spirited attempt to be this candidate. He's a proper old-labour leftie and, uniquely amongst the current crop of contenders, has the mad idea that labour voters might actually want some left-wing policies to vote for, instead of believing that the way to reclaim labour's angry and disillusioned base is by hiding the last embarrassing shreds of leftiness and becoming even more like the tories.

I can't find good numbers on his support: amongst MPs he only scraped the minimum nominations necessary to get on the ballot, but he got that by being enormously popular with low-level members, including a big wave who (re)joined labour specifically to support his bid. It's hard to believe that he'll actually win the leadership -- not young, openly socialist, no private school or Oxbridge education, history of defying the whips, etc -- but if he can convince the party leadership that there's a strong left-wing crowd just waiting for labour to come back to them, there's a chance that he'll do a lot of good.
posted by metaBugs at 6:04 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Eloquent and love the burr...
posted by jim in austin at 6:35 PM on July 14, 2015


Yes, Labour failed Scotland. And Scotland's revenge leads to a Tory gang that has unleashed war on the poor, the NHS, the BBC, and any attempt at an economy balanced away from property-speculation money laundering.

And there won't be change until they unleash enough havoc and damage to force a revolt.
posted by C.A.S. at 12:10 AM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


And Scotland's revenge leads to a Tory gang that has unleashed war on the poor, the NHS, the BBC, and any attempt at an economy balanced away from property-speculation money laundering.

As has already been pointed out in this thread, even had Labour demolished the SNP in Scotland, there would still be a Tory government now. The Labour party failed to do what it needed to do to win an election.

There are those who argue that a slightly more credible version of Labour's five year policy vacuum would have been enough to prevent a Tory majority. Maybe they're right. Ed Miliband certainly wasn't a slick salesman of not very much at all.

But a lot of us are more concerned by the fact that Labour utterly failed to engage its activists and its base. That we are left, a few months after the election, unable to name a single policy that we are sad to have missed out on.

Not being the Tory party is definitely better than the alternative, but Labour's belief that this is all that is needed to win elections and ensure good governance seems, to me, pitifully naïve. That they are pledging to support the Tories' economically illiterate and monstrously unjust attack on our country's children just illustrates how far from sense and principle the Labour party has found itself.

Do not blame the Scots for this mess. The blame can be sufficiently distributed among the bullies and fools in government, and the cowards in our official opposition.
posted by howfar at 12:55 AM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Fall of Scottish Labour - I'm sure it's not the whole story but this is an interesting documentary original shown on BBC Scotland
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:12 AM on July 15, 2015


The various SNP maiden speeches have been the only bright spot for me in what has been an otherwise incessant parade of Tory triumphalism these few weeks. They seem to take childlike glee in seeing how far they can take their bastardry.

To have sane, decent, left-leaning people in Parliament, saying things I believe, in my own accent and with a conviction I thought was gone from British politics is an absolute tonic.

I firmly believe the Union is dead over the long term. The contradictions and structural weaknesses inherent in our ramshackle form of government have doomed it, as have the actions of the coalition, the current Tory government and the faded ghost of what was once Labour.

But in the meantime, I'm bloody glad there's people like Mhairi Black, Deirdre Brock, Tommy Shepherd and Dr. Philippa Whitford representing Scotland. It is an odd and welcome feeling to be proud of and identify with my elected representatives.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:49 AM on July 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


TLDR: You would've been bored by the vast majority of speeches in Old Rome, too.

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen, the time has come to speak of repaving subsidies for much-delayed work of the Via Appia..."
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:54 AM on July 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Really? Forgive me for saying so, but does anybody really listen to speeches in Parliament any more, let alone maiden speeches?

Finally remembered it's was Thatcher's maiden speech that actually introduced successful legislation
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:02 AM on July 15, 2015


(The earlier link to the transcript is now obsolete, but this one should work indefinitely.)
posted by nicepersonality at 9:21 AM on July 15, 2015


We are talking decades of the Tories in command.

This stuff all goes around, and never underestimate the power of events, but this is the most piss-poor and ineffectual opposition to the Tories since the early 80s.

The LibDems have managed to shoot themselves in both feet, then their bollocks, and finally in the head.

Labour seem to be in the final stages of a process that I can only describe as Harriet Harmanisation.

There's no hope for the UK at the moment. Glad I'm in Amsterdam.
posted by daveje at 11:06 AM on July 15, 2015


Do not blame this government on the SNP, or you will see this Englishman actually explode in pure, incandescent wrath.

What, exactly, should the SNP have done differently? How should the Scots people have voted?

What sin, exactly, did they commit?

At this moment, the Scottish electorate are the least cynical, most committed, most thoughtful and most forward-looking demographic in these benighted islands.

To hold this up as some state of treason is either dangerously delusional or actively vile.

Likewise, do not blame it on "nationalism" - in another place, I am struggling not to defriend a Labour supporter who is banging on about how the ills of the nation are due to Scotland's 'poisonous nationalism'.

This is a country that has just voted to continue in the Union, and would do so again tomorrow.

Just stop. You are holding back everything good that can happen.
posted by Devonian at 11:14 AM on July 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


We are talking decades of the Tories in command. Imagine 5 Thatchers in a row.

It seems unfair to blame the Scottish voters for how the Tory and Labour parties have acted in concert to the public's detriment. PMs Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron have been all fairly Thatcherite in their unique ways, whether it is Blair blowing up stuff elsewhere in the world, Brown's xenophobic work policies, Cameron and Major's general approach at privatizing the NHS, British Rail, the breathing of oxygen, etc.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:40 PM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


British newspapers are a lot franker about their biases:
How you can help Jeremy Corbyn win - and destroy the Labour Party
Sign up today to make sure the bearded socialist voter-repellent becomes the next Labour leader - and dooms the party forever
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:51 PM on July 15, 2015


Seriously who reads the Telegraph these days? It's fucking embarrassing.
posted by howfar at 1:50 PM on July 16, 2015


Seriously who reads the Telegraph these days? It's fucking embarrassing.

That the garbage they've written about Nick Cave they've gone from the Torygraph to the Tabloidgraph
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:54 PM on July 16, 2015


The Lib Dems have got themselves a new leader... grassroots-liked from left of the party over than the place-man of the men in grey suits. But it's all far too late.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:57 PM on July 16, 2015


Australian Labor needs to take heed.

I receive almost daily auto email updates from Bill Shorten or Tony Bourke - so I took the opportunity and returned the favour and emailed this to Bill - the most weather cock of all leaders.

Ms Black makes a great point - I didn't leave labor, labor left me. They don't represent anything I stand for because they don't stand for anything. Their signatures on the border force bill was the last straw for me. I detest them.

If the Greens were a geographically based party then we would see many Green lower house MPs. That's the only thing saving labor from oblivion.

Oh, and Labor staffer who monitors social media (lol whatevs) . Can you PLEASE tell Shorten to stop wearing that fucking blue tie?
posted by mattoxic at 7:36 PM on July 16, 2015


Applause is seriously high praise

Well, given that the house was populated solely by SNP and few others, and many of the SNP members are new...
posted by mattoxic at 7:51 PM on July 16, 2015


Well, yeah. Also, I can Scots wha hae with the best of them, but the speech itself isn't that remarkable, as opposed to the fact that it was delivered by a 20-year old.

The bit about her discovering that she was supposed to give a maiden speech, and that William Wallace was born in her constituency, left me flat. The anecdote she related was genuinely moving; she situated her party's opposition to the Government within her own circumstances - nice tactic there! - and she talked about her party's position, aspirations, and strategy rather than just her own. It's your good, typical maiden speech; I wouldn't call it extraordinary; it's probably better than most but any decent MP really should be able to do the same.

On the other hand, not many people can win preselection at such an early age; those that do are often freaks of a weird electoral process. That doesn't seem to be the case here; it sounds as if she got there on merit. That's what impresses me.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:59 PM on July 16, 2015


While we can't (and shouldn't) blame the SNP for the current Tory government, saying that they had nothing to do with it is a bit much.

I heard my parents - left leaning, life long labour voters -- worrying about what was going to happen if Labour got in and "That Woman" got "a sniff of some power", and at that point I knew that the Tory press had done an amazing job on convincing the electorate that voting for Ed was going to give you Sturgen (or confusingly Salmon), and consequently ensured that the Tories were going to get back in.

When I asked them why they were worried about Sturgen, they compared her to Thatcher! I think that we tend to forget that people who don't care about politics simply see the broad strokes from the Press, and take it all in.
posted by couch at 4:52 AM on July 17, 2015


Lunch with the FT: Mhairi Black - "Over chicken korma in London, Britain's youngest MP since 1832 talks about Scottish nationalism, her meteoric ascent into Westminster — and debating politics in the pub."
[T]he conversion of the Black family, which took place when Mhairi was a teenager, was perhaps typical of what happened across the country. “My dad and I used to argue for hours at the dinner table,” she says. “I just couldn’t understand how anyone could continue to believe in the Union when things weren’t really changing at all.”

[. . . ]

She began to go “door-chapping” (canvassing) for the nationalists long before last September’s referendum on independence, and found that vast numbers of voters had come to the same conclusion as she had. There were some holdouts, of course. “It took a long time to persuade my Auntie Jane, until I took her to a Labour for Independence meeting, and next morning she posted on Facebook that she was voting yes! I read her post in the library at university and I had to run outside because I was so excited, and you can’t make a noise in the library.”

[. . . ]

So what explains the SNP’s triumph, only a few months later, in the general election? It wasn’t an upsurge of nationalist feeling. “The SNP destroyed Labour because we were anti-austerity, whereas their message was almost the same as in the Better Together campaign.” (“Better for whom?” I have always wondered.)

[. . . ]

“They just seemed to be blagging it for years,” she says. For the voters, rejection of self-determination was not the same as embracing the way the Union worked in Scotland. “Supporting Labour might have made sense at the start of the welfare state but it didn’t do so any longer. By the 21st century, Labour had become intellectually bankrupt,” she says. I suspect she intends “intellectual bankruptcy” to include moral and spiritual impoverishment, too...

[...]

When at home in her constituency she still lives with her parents, surrounded by “schemes” (council housing estates), the indications of deprivation — unemployment, a wrecked town centre, substance abuse — all too easy to find. It is not that Scotland failed Labour but that too many people had come to believe Labour had failed Scotland. Putting the question of independence on to the agenda had the effect of inciting the country, she says, to have “a serious political conversation with itself: if the constitutional basis of Scotland was up for grabs, why not everything else?”

She recalls a discussion with her dad in the pub before going to a football match. “He said there’s too many people just think politics is for other people, instead of getting stuck in.” It was more than enough encouragement. A question I ask about where she acquired the self-confidence to believe — unlike 99.9 per cent of the population — that she could stand for parliament simply seems not to register with her.

[...]

Being a fan of Partick Thistle, an unglamorous football club in the Scottish Premiership, imbues a certain stoicism — “Partick are the most frustrating team in the world. They could play Barcelona, be one-nil up after 89 minutes and still lose two-one” — but she says she had no special confidence about the outcome of the election.

So on the night of the count she stayed at home, playing guitar and watching The Big Bang Theory. She wrote two speeches, one for victory and one for defeat. But she only rehearsed the losing speech. Her father was her election agent; when he called to arrange for her to come to the declaration of the result, she explains, he kept saying breathily, “It’s close, Mhairi, it’s so close.”

Inside the local leisure centre, the returning officer took the candidates and their agents behind a curtain to brief them about the impending declaration. Suddenly, her father turned to her and said, “ ‘Mhairi, I’ve been lying to you all night. You’ve been winning since they counted the first box. We didn’t tell you because we didn’t want you to work yourself up.’ It was a bombshell. I was the last one to know.”

The young woman who had nursed childhood dreams of becoming an astronaut, a farmer or a judge was suddenly an MP. Parliament is increasingly full of dull people who have done nothing with their lives but work their way up the greasy pole, striking an attitude as a student, then toiling away as party minnows, until finally getting the chance to try for a winnable seat. The accusation cannot be levelled at Black: she hadn’t even finished her undergraduate course in politics and public policy at the University of Glasgow at the time of the election (she has since graduated with a first-class degree), and she had been thinking about training to become a teacher, like her parents.

[...]

Can she imagine spending the next 50 years in Westminster? Though she is polite enough not to say so, this is a very stupid question indeed. She smiles. “I don’t imagine so. I hope we’ll be running our own affairs in Scotland. I’ve no doubt about it. Fundamentally, none of the SNP MPs really wants to be here.”
posted by kliuless at 5:43 AM on August 1, 2015


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