Mhairi Black

Mhairi Black in 2019
SNP Spokesperson for Scotland
Assumed office
7 January 2020
LeaderIan Blackford
Preceded byTommy Sheppard
Member of Parliament
for Paisley and Renfrewshire South
Assumed office
7 May 2015
Preceded byDouglas Alexander
Majority10,679 (24.8%)
Personal details
Born (1994-09-12) 12 September 1994 (age 26)
Paisley, Scotland
Political partyScottish National Party
Alma materUniversity of Glasgow
Websitemhairiblack.scot Edit this at Wikidata

Mhairi Black (/ˈmæri/;[i] born 12 September 1994) is a Scottish politician. As a member of the Scottish National Party (SNP), she has been a Member of Parliament (MP) for Paisley and Renfrewshire South since 2015, when she defeated Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander.[1] She was re-elected in 2017 and again in 2019.[2][3]

When elected in May 2015, she was 20 years and 237 days old, making her the youngest ever MP elected to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom since the Reform Act of 1832, the previous record having been held by William Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, who was 20 years and 11 months old when elected in 1832.[4]

Black was the Baby of the House as the youngest member of the House[5] from 2015 to 2019 when Labour MP Nadia Whittome, who was aged 23 at the time of her election to the House of Commons, was elected at the 2019 election.

Early life

Born in Paisley in 1994, Black was educated at Lourdes Secondary School, Glasgow, and the University of Glasgow, where she was awarded a first-class honours degree in Politics and Public Policy in June 2015.[5][6][7] At the time of her election on 8 May 2015, she had not yet completed her undergraduate degree, with a final exam on Scottish politics still to be undertaken.[8]

Political career

Black at the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament protest in Paisley Cross, July 2016
Black at the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament protest in Paisley Cross, July 2016

Black became a member of Parliament for Paisley and Renfrewshire South in the 2015 general election while still a final year undergraduate student at the University of Glasgow.[9] Her defeat of Douglas Alexander, a Labour MP and Shadow Foreign Secretary, was described as unexpected and an example of a collapse of popularity for the Labour Party in Scotland at the 2015 election.[10]

Although she was reported to be the youngest MP since Christopher Monck, Earl of Torrington, who entered the House of Commons at the age of 13 in 1667, Monck was followed by other teenagers until the Parliamentary Elections Act 1695 established 21 as the minimum age of candidacy.[11] Furthermore, until the Reform Act 1832, underage MPs were seldom unseated, with Viscount Jocelyn being 18 when elected in the 1806 general election.[12][13] Since the Electoral Administration Act 2006 reduced the age of candidacy from 21 to 18 years, Black is the first person to be elected under its provisions.[14]

On 1 July 2015, it was announced that Black had been appointed to the Work and Pensions Select Committee.[15] She made her maiden speech on 14 July 2015 and this included some criticism of the government's approach to unemployment in her constituency and the growing need for food banks. She said, "Food banks are not part of the Welfare State. They are a symbol that the welfare state is failing."[16] Black also criticised the government over cuts to housing benefit.[17] Her speech was praised by SNP Parliamentary Group Leader, Angus Robertson, who described it as outstanding, principled and passionate.[18] Within five days of her giving this speech, it had been viewed over 10 million times on various media.[18] Black was later made aware of the change in the state pension through her constituents,[19] and has since endorsed Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) on several occasions.[20][21]

Black is a longstanding critic of Westminster. Two months after her election, she commented that the practice of making MPs vote in person, instead of electronically, was "outdated and wasted time".[22] In a 2016 interview with Owen Jones, Black labelled Westminster as an "old boys' club" and "so excluded from reality", while expressing concern about the arrogance and sexism from other MPs.[23]

At a public meeting in November 2016 in Aberdeenshire, Black said of the EU referendum: “If I’m honest, there was an element of holding my nose a bit when I voted Remain.”[24] One member of the audience told the Daily Telegraph, "I’m not sure she would have said it in Glasgow. She was sitting in the most Eurosceptic corner of Scotland.”[24]

She also dismissed the claim of the pro-independence campaign in 2014 that Scots would be £500 better off if they voted Yes as "mythical".[24]

In 2017, Black considered not standing for a second term in the next general election, expressing her frustration that "so little gets done",[25] and that "it is a pain to come up and down every week".[26]

Despite this, Black decided to stand at the 2017 general election and, despite a backlash among voters to Sturgeon's plans for a second independence referendum,[27] was re-elected with a reduced majority.[28][2] She told BBC Scotland that she's "glad to be re-elected to go back down and continue to batter into whoever is in government that austerity is not working, it's not benefiting people's lives whatsoever. The people it is benefiting, you could argue, are the ones who need it least."[29]

In April 2017 Black was heckled by protestors who were angry at the decision of the Scottish Government to close the sick children's ward at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in her constituency.[30] One local parent told the press, “I am not at all happy. Ward 15 saved my little boy’s life when he was only five days old. It’s about children’s lives".[31]

In September 2017, Black was placed at Number 77 in 'The 100 Most Influential People on the Left' by commentator Iain Dale – a fall of 18 places on the previous year, which Dale attributed to the view that: "Her second year in Parliament has been quieter than her first."[32]

In January 2018, Black was a signatory for a Safer Drugs Consumption Facility (SDCF) pilot scheme in Glasgow.[33]

Black has since October 2015 received £150 per week from Newsquest Media (Herald & Times) Ltd, for a column in The National.[34]

Black stood again in the 2019 general election as the SNP candidate for Paisley & Renfrewshire South[35] and was elected with over half the vote, increasing her majority to 10,679 votes or 24.8% - more than double that in the 2015 election.[36]

In March 2020, it was reported that Black had a "blazing row" with her fellow SNP MP Joanna Cherry, after the latter questioned her decision to visit a primary school with a drag queen.[37][38]

Political views

Black describes herself as a "traditional socialist", citing Tony Benn as her enduring political hero - despite his opposition to Scottish independence.[39][40] Her other political inspirations include Keir Hardie and Margo MacDonald.[41]

Black is a strong critic of the Conservative government's rollout of Universal Credit, maintaining that delays in payments have serious negative effects on claimants and she is critical of how loans must be paid back later. Black said in Parliament that the government was like a ‘pious loan shark – except that instead of coming through your front door they are coming after your mental health, your physical well-being, your stability, your sense of security – that is what the experience is for all of our constituents’. She added, ‘Plunging people into debt does not incentivise work, forcing people into hunger does not incentivise work, causing anxiety and distress and even evicting some families from their homes does not incentivise work.’[42]

Personal life

Along with other LGBT MPs from the SNP, Black expressed her support for same-sex marriage prior to the referendum in Ireland. Asked about her decision to "come out", she replied "I've never been in".[43][44]

According to The Tablet she is a Catholic.[45] Despite this, Black has said that she is "not religious" although she "reads her Bible".[46]

She is a supporter and season-ticket holder of Partick Thistle F.C.[47] She plays the piano, as was revealed in a Channel 4 News interview with Jon Snow, on 18 September 2015, during which she played the theme music from the film Titanic.[48]

Notes

^ Black's forename is a Scottish Gaelic form of 'Mary'. In Gaelic, this name is Màiri [ˈmaːɾʲɪ] in the nominative case but a Mhàiri [əˈvaːɾʲɪ] in the vocative case, of which Mhairi is a borrowing (similar to the borrowing of Seumas (James) as Hamish via the Gaelic vocative a Sheumais [əˈheːmɪʃ]). However, Black says that her name is a homophone of the word marry.[49] /ˈmɑːri/ was the pronunciation chosen by Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing on the occasion of her maiden speech.[50]

References

  1. ^ "General Election 2015 Results: Paisley & Renfrewshire South". BBC News. 8 May 2015. Archived from the original on 11 April 2019. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  2. ^ a b Young, Gregor (8 June 2017). "Mhairi Black defies exit poll odds by holding Paisley & Renfrewshire South". The National. Archived from the original on 9 June 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Paisley & Renfrewshire South parliamentary constituency - Election 2019". Archived from the original on 5 December 2019. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  4. ^ Rix, Kathryn (11 May 2015). "The youngest MP? The 'baby' of the first Reformed Parliament". The Victorian Commons. Archived from the original on 3 July 2018. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  5. ^ a b Lusher, Adam (8 May 2015). "General Election 2015: Mhairi Black: The 20-year-old who could become the youngest MP since 1667". The Independent. Archived from the original on 19 February 2019. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  6. ^ Leask, David (1 June 2015). "Analysis: SNP bucks trend for privately educated MPs". The Herald. Archived from the original on 14 December 2019. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  7. ^ "Mhairi Black awarded first class honours degree". BBC News. 26 June 2015. Archived from the original on 14 February 2019. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  8. ^ "Youngest MP Mhairi Black to finish degree despite historic victory". STV. 8 May 2015. Archived from the original on 10 May 2015. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  9. ^ McKirdy, Euan (8 May 2015). "UK Elections: Mhairi Black, the 20-year-old who's Britain's youngest lawmaker". CNN. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  10. ^ Riley-Smith, Ben; Sanghani, Radhika (9 October 2015). "Mhairi Black reveals she is getting patted on the back and 'patronised' in House of Commons". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 21 January 2019. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  11. ^ "Meet the youngest MP elected since 1667". Newsbeat. 8 May 2015. Archived from the original on 21 January 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  12. ^ "House of Commons 1790–1820: III. The Members". History of Parliament Online. 1986. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  13. ^ Porritt, Edward; Porritt, Annie Gertrude (Webb) (1903). "XI:Minors and aliens on the exclusion list". The unreformed House of Commons; parliamentary representation before 1832. 1: England and Wales. Cambridge University Press. pp. 222–235.
  14. ^ Lee, Jeremy (8 May 2015). "10 things about Mhairi Black, Britain's youngest MP since 1667". The Straits Times. Singapore. Archived from the original on 19 May 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  15. ^ "Youngest MP Mhairi Black joins pensions committee". BBC News. 1 July 2015. Archived from the original on 29 March 2019. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  16. ^ "Mhairi Black makes maiden speech in the Commons". The Scotsman. 14 July 2015. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  17. ^ Brooks, Libby (15 July 2015). "SNP's Mhairi Black attacks housing benefit cuts in first Commons speech". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 27 February 2019. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  18. ^ a b "Mhairi Black's maiden speech tops 10m online views". BBC News. 19 July 2015. Archived from the original on 28 September 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  19. ^ Jones, Rupert (9 January 2016). "Women's state pension age rise: an unfair burden or a necessary reform?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 30 December 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  20. ^ Hartley, Eve (29 June 2016). "Mhairi Black Makes Impromptu Speech Pleading For State Pension Equality". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 15 March 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  21. ^ "MHAIRI BLACK DELIVERS WASPI PETITIONS TO WESTMINSTER". Paisley.org.uk. Archived from the original on 25 June 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  22. ^ Williams, Martin (25 July 2015). "Mhairi Black criticises Westminster's outdated traditions". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 18 September 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  23. ^ Jones, Owen; Sich, Adam (17 March 2016). "Mhairi Black: 'Westminster is a totally defunct, sexist institution' – video interview". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 24 October 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  24. ^ a b c Johnson, Simon (11 November 2016). "SNP MP Mhairi Black 'held her nose' while voting Remain". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 9 November 2020. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  25. ^ Wearmouth, Rachel (12 March 2016). "SNP MP Mhairi Black on 'hating' being at Westminster, age comments and why she might not stand for re-election". The Sunday Post. Archived from the original on 2 May 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  26. ^ "SNP MP Mhairi Black on 'hating' being at Westminster, age comments and why she might not stand for re-election". Archived from the original on 2 May 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  27. ^ "General election 2017: Sturgeon says Indyref2 'a factor' in SNP losses". BBC News. 9 June 2017. Archived from the original on 6 January 2021. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  28. ^ Howarth, Angus (18 April 2017). "Mhairi Black confirms she will stand in General Election". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 28 May 2017. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  29. ^ Carrell, Severin (9 June 2017). "SNP suffers shock losses as Tories oust Salmond and Robertson". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 26 March 2019. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  30. ^ "'Yer a liar!' Watch Mhairi Black heckled by protesters over sick kids ward close". 19 May 2017. Archived from the original on 13 November 2020. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  31. ^ "'She doesn't have children': Mhairi Black accused of not caring about sick kids ward's future". Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  32. ^ Dale, Iain (25 September 2017). "The 100 Most Influential People On The Left: Iain Dale's 2017 List". LBC. Archived from the original on 25 September 2017. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  33. ^ Sean Bell (17 January 2018). "Cross-party pressure on UK Government grows to reform drug policy". CommonSpace. Archived from the original on 14 February 2019. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  34. ^ "The Register of Members' Financial Interests as at 21 January 2019 - Black, Mhairi (Paisley and Renfrewshire South)". Parliament.uk. Archived from the original on 7 February 2019. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  35. ^ "Paisley & Renfrewshire South Consitituency". Archived from the original on 11 April 2019. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  36. ^ "Paisley & Renfrewshire South parliamentary constituency - Election 2019 - BBC News". Archived from the original on 11 April 2019. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  37. ^ "Joanna Cherry and Mhairi Black clash in 'chaotic' SNP Westminster meeting". Archived from the original on 4 March 2021. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  38. ^ "Reports claim Mhairi Black and Joanna Cherry had row over drag queen". Archived from the original on 29 March 2021. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  39. ^ "Independence referendum: Tony Benn was convinced Yes vote wouldn't promote socialist cause, says his brother". 20 July 2014. Archived from the original on 14 February 2021. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  40. ^ Gander, Kashmira (15 July 2015). "Mhairi Black speech in full". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 July 2015. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  41. ^ Spiers, Graham (1 May 2015). "Graham Spiers Article for the Times". Mhairi Black SNP: Paisley & Renfrewshire South. Archived from the original on 3 May 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  42. ^ "Mhairi Black calls Tory government 'pious loan sharks' in blistering speech". Metro. 19 October 2017. Archived from the original on 22 October 2017. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  43. ^ Riley-Smith, Ben (14 May 2015). "Commons has more gay MPs than any other parliament in the world". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 22 May 2015. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  44. ^ Dinwoodie, Robbie (21 May 2015). "Time to toast our increasingly tolerant society". The Herald. Archived from the original on 29 March 2021. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  45. ^ Lee, Ceridwen (27 August 2015). "Fall in number of Catholic MPs in the House of Commons ahead of landmark debate on assisted dying". The Tablet. Archived from the original on 9 August 2017. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  46. ^ "21 facts about Mhairi Black as she turns 21". Newsbeat. 11 September 2015. Archived from the original on 22 November 2019. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  47. ^ "Mhairi Black MP". Scottish National Party. Archived from the original on 8 May 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  48. ^ "Jeremy Corbyn is England's answer to the SNP – Mhairi Black". Channel 4 News. 18 September 2015. Archived from the original on 19 September 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  49. ^ Black, Mhairi [@MhairiBlack] (23 April 2015). "@PeterAdamSmith @JournoStephen it's pronounced M-hairi, as in 'marry'. Mum went for the complicated spelling!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  50. ^ Mhairi Black: SNP MP's maiden speech in full. Channel 4 News. 14 July 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byDouglas Alexander Member of Parliamentfor Paisley and Renfrewshire South2015–present Incumbent Preceded byPamela Nash Baby of the House2015–2019 Succeeded byNadia Whittome