How A 20-Year-Old Girl In College Just Got Elected To UK Parliament
Mhairi Black is a seemingly ordinary 20-year-old student who openly professes a love for alcohol, music and football (soccer). If you were to walk through any town in the United Kingdom, it's safe to say that nearly every person her age would fit the same description.
But while Black shares many similarities with her peers, she stands apart in one exceptional way: She just became the youngest Member of Parliament in over 300 years, and she hasn't even finished university.
There have been no British lawmakers younger than Black since 1667, when 13-year-old Christopher Monckton joined Parliament.
Black, who studies Politics and Public Policy at the University of Glasgow, just won the Paisley and Renfrewshire South seat in the United Kingdom general election. Her constituency is located southwest of Glasgow, Scotland's largest city.
In winning the seat, Black ousted a prominent and experienced Labour Party politician and shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander.
Thank you to everyone who turned out and voted for me and helping me win the Paisley and Renfrewshire South #voteSnP pic.twitter.com/nZqyO7C85G — Mhairi Black (@mhairi1921) May 8, 2015
Black's party, the Scottish National Party (SNP), led by Nicola Sturgeon, just won a massive victory in this election, winning 56 out of 59 seats.
Much of this is an evident reaction to the Scottish independence referendum that occurred in September, ending with Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom -- 55 percent of Scotland voted "no" to independence, with 45 percent voting "yes."
Many took the result as a sign the Scottish independence movement was dead, but we can now see that was a premature conclusion.
The SNP is pro-independence, thus its success in this election indicates that Scottish independence is not such a farfetched possibility. In other words, it seems the tide of Scottish nationalism has swept over England's northern neighbor, reflected by the choices of Scotland's voters.
Other hugely important stories: wipe out of Labour in Scotland, triumph of SNP, will be seen as putting Scottish independence back on agenda — Robert Peston (@Peston) May 7, 2015
Scottish independence is arguably more possible now than this time one year ago. — Matt Ford (@fordm) May 8, 2015
Her historic victory over Alexander is an enormous signal that the people of Scotland desire a massive change from the status quo and, perhaps, even long for complete separation from the UK.
As MacDonald puts it:
[Mhairi Black's victory is] an incredible story and one drawn from the dynamic events that have invigorated Scotland's political landscape in recent years.
Broadly speaking, it comes from a growing sense of dissatisfaction -- even contempt -- with Labour from voters in many of their former heartlands, angry at the sense that Labour simply is not engaged with, or listening to, its voting base any more.
The SNP is now seen by a great many Scots -- especially those in poorer areas -- as 'the Party of Scotland.' That crown was, for the longest time, Labour's.
The decision by the UK Labour Party to campaign alongside the Conservative Party during the recent independence referendum campaign went down badly with many Labour supporters... This hangover of the referendum continues to haunt Scottish Labour.
It's against this backdrop that we see Mhairi Black's victory. She was standing against Douglas Alexander, an experienced Labour MP who is seen by many Scots as part of the 'Labour establishment' increasingly out of touch with a Scotland politically transformed by the recent constitutional debate.
Hence, even though the Conservatives won a majority in Parliament and David Cameron will remain the Prime Minister of the UK, the political landscape in Scotland has shifted dramatically -- and Black's victory, along with the rest of the SNP, reflects this.
Correspondingly, MacDonald states:
The SNP now represent a significant political force: They dominate the Scottish political landscape and are now the 3rd largest party in the UK parliament in Westminster in London.
Hanging over everything they do is the constitutional question: If the SNP bandwagon continues, when will Nicola Sturgeon (SNP leader) announce another independence referendum?
In the 2010 general election the SNP only won six seats. It's now added to that number by 50.
All of this will definitely reinvigorate the Scottish independence debate, which Black will be at the forefront of given she's already making headlines.
And while Black may be young, it seems many are already quite taken with her and find her youth refreshing and passion-inspiring:
Mhairi Black may be young but she is inspirational, she speaks well, she is engaging and she is human, she cares, she has compassion. — Matt Woosie (@MattWoosie) May 8, 2015
Gracious, generous acceptance by Mhairi Black, there. More like her, please. #GE2015 — Hugo Rifkind (@hugorifkind) May 8, 2015
With that said, Black has been criticized in the past for incendiary tweets, particularly in regards to the Celtic Football Club:
Mhairi Black tweeted about how much she effing hates Celtic. What a delightful young lady to have representing Scotland at Westminster. — Rachel Cavers (@rachelcavers) May 8, 2015
If you're unfamiliar with Scottish politics, history and culture, football (soccer) has often played a large role in sectarianism and, in turn, violence.
Celtic and its historic rival, Rangers Football Club, have been at the center of this. Accordingly, if you're a politician in the west of Scotland (or anyone for that matter), it would behoove you to shut your mouth about football.
As MacDonald contends:
Black was no standout candidate. Indeed, she faced a really steep learning curve: Her former indiscretions on Twitter made front-page news, as did comments she made about wanting to 'nut' (head-butt) Labour councillors. But she grew into her campaign and spoke with an authenticity that, for many, Douglas Alexander simply does not have. Ultimately, Mhairi Black's campaign -- whilst certainly appearing novice-like at times -- clearly spoke to the people of Paisley and Renfrewshire South with good effect. Most importantly at this time, she wasn't campaigning for Scottish Labour and she wasn't one of the Labour 'big beasts' with whom the people of Scotland have fallen out of love with. She is now an MP, will take her seat in London although she hasn't finished her university exams yet!
Mhairi Black definitely has her work cut out for her, and perhaps some maturing to do. But it's evident she's aware of that, and it's also fair to say that far more experienced politicians have made bigger gaffes than she has.
Not to mention, it's refreshing to see a young female rise to a position of prominence in a world where politics are often dominated by old men.
For now, we can congratulate Ms. Black on her impressive victory and hold off any comprehensive judgments until she fully assumes her role as a Member of Parliament.
Regardless of your politics, you have to admit she's a remarkable young woman.
Citations: Mhairi Black the 20 year old who beat a Labour heavyweight (The Guardian ), This Is the Youngest British Lawmaker in Almost 350 Years (Time), 6 things you should know about the UKs historic election (Vox), UK Elections Mhairi Black the 20 year old whos Britains youngest lawmaker (CNN), The colourful 20 year old SNP student who has become the youngest MP since 1667 (Daily Mail UK), Election 2015 SNP wins 56 of 59 seats in Scots landslide (BBC), Mhairi Black (SNP)