It’s not been a great week for MPs covering themselves in glory. But amid all the malarkey over Owen Paterson and Claudia Webbe, one of their colleagues was embarrassing themselves in a more traditional way: the car-crash television interview.
Step forward, Zarah Sultana, whose antics on Wednesday's Politics Live went somewhat under the radar in light of the conduct of others in parliament. In the programme, the left-wing MP made a number of outlandish claims of the kind that have characterised her brief – but inglorious – political career.
These included the suggestion that the fossil fuel industry should be replaced with teachers and carers, that the Democrats lost the Virginia gubernatorial race because Joe Biden wasn't – shock! – left wing enough and that she feels ‘incredibly unsafe in the chamber’ because some Tories don’t wear masks in the Commons.
No such fear of course was shown by the 28-year-old five weeks ago when Steerpike saw her first hand address several packed Labour conference fringes full of hundreds of mask-less attendees. Among the chants heard by Mr S was a reworking of the old Momentum favourite: ‘Ohhhh Jeremy Corbyn!’ to an updated ‘Ohhh Zarah Sultana!’
So, if Sultana is indeed the ‘heir apparent’ to the Corbynista crown, then Mr S thought it time to review the record of the Coventry collectivist. Whether it’s online, in the House, on screen or in print, Sultana has brought her patented mix of socialist self-aggrandisement to all forms of politics, putting the ‘stan’ into ‘substandard’ since her election two years ago.
Below are six – but by no means all – of the worst Zarah Sultana moments from her fledgling political career…
Social media shenanigans
Mozart, Pitt the Younger, Stevie Wonder: all the greats start from an early age. And Sultana was no exception, causing controversy before she'd even taken her seat. While most of her peers at Birmingham University were studying, drinking or just generally having a good time, Sultana was sending tweets which implied that she would celebrate the deaths of the former Labour premier Tony Blair, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and former President George Bush Jr. Nice!
Clearly the budding Bolshevik was already plotting her future path as a career politician in Jezza's party, telling someone whom she described as pro-Israel to 'jump off a cliff' and comparing between the Holocaust and those who died in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Chechnya. In another tweet, Sultana said that her mum was 'pissed' after her dad told her that she was a Jew.
The Young Labour executive member also used racial slurs to brand Jewish students as 'YT' and 'the white woman' with other posts stating that students supporting Zionism were 'advocating a racist ideology... and champion[ing] a state created through ethnic cleansing, sustained through occupation, apartheid and war crimes.'
The Labour Party re-interviewed her as a consequence of the posts, but she remained the party's candidate. Quelle surprise!
Confirmed as a candidate, in December 2019 Sultana was narrowly elected to parliament, having (just) avoided snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the once safe seat of Coventry South. Standing in place of the outgoing Jim Cunningham, Zarah reduced Labour's majority by more than 7,500 as she clung on to the constituency by just 401 votes. Unphased by her constituents' lack of confidence in her, Sultana delivered what Churchill might have called a 'brazen hussy of a maiden speech,' a month after taking her seat.
In a cliche-riddled diatribe, the then 26 year-old recycled every tired left-wing trope under the sun, replete with mentions of 'Bullingdon boys,' Boris Johnson's old Telegraph columns and, of course, the government giving succour to the far right. Her castigation of '40 years of Thatcherism' drew the ire of much of the liberal left, with the Observer issuing this withering rejoinder: 'What faster way to speed up Labour’s irrelevance than by telling the millions who voted Labour during these years that they might as well have voted Conservative?'
A month into her parliamentary career and Sultana was already winning hearts and minds. Coventry's answer to Regina George – 'you can't sit with us!' – made it clear from the start she had no intention of working with her Conservative colleagues, filming herself throwing their literature into a waste bin. Unfortunately the literature in question was for select committee positions, with Labour colleagues forced to point out to Sultana on Twitter that committee chairmanships are divided up by party, in line with their parliamentary representation.
As fellow Labour MP Toby Perkins wrote: 'Several of the committees are allocated to Tory MPs. It makes sense for Labour MPs to pick ones who will most hold failing government ministers to account.' Jacqui Smith added: 'You're not voting for a Tory over a Labour candidate. There are allocated places. You're just giving up your influence.' Even more embarrassing for Sultana was, just a week later, she was writing to those awful Tory MPs to ask them for their support on changing the menus in parliament. Awkward.
— Zarah Sultana MP (@zarahsultana) January 29, 2020
Tories trying to get me to vote for them onto select committees...Lol that’s not me 😂🚮 pic.twitter.com/hl7eSWaUVH
Fast forward 12 months and with Britain plunged into the middle of a pandemic, there was little sign that Sultana had matured with the times. As the first vaccines became available in January 2021 and a debate raged as to who should be prioritised, her response was to ask in parliament if convicted criminals would get first dibs.
At a Select Committee grilling, Sultana told Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi that: 'Vaccinating detainees is both good for public health and a humane approach to a completely disenfranchised population, so has the government considered prioritising vaccinating detainees as well as those who work in prisons?'
Zahawi politely suggested that it was perhaps best to stick to the current plan, vaccinating those most at risk of, you know, dying...
Havana good time
When not shedding tears for the Magic Grandpa or laughing along to chants of 'Lock him up!' about former PM Tony Blair, there's nothing Sultana appears to enjoy more than a good old viral tweet. But among the various missteps she's made on her overactive Twitter account include suggesting in July that the scenes of protestors in Cuba demonstrating against the country's illiberal regime was actually the fault of imperialist America.
Despite more than 178 people going missing, Sultana stayed silent on Havana's role, preferring to claim that those who 'care about Cuba' should turn their guns on, er, Washington. This came just days after the MP's hyperbolic histrionics that the government’s Police and Crime Bill was 'an attack on our democratic right to protest.' Not very internationalist of her...
— Zarah Sultana MP (@zarahsultana) July 12, 2021
The US has waged economic war on Cuba for nearly 60 years. Its blockade of the country is estimated to have cost Cuba $753,000,000,000+.If you care about Cuba, the key demand is for Washington to end its economic war on the country, just as the UN has repeatedly demanded.
Of all the talents Sultana has exhibited in her brief political career, none is more evident than a penchant for self-promotion. Whether it's amassing 2.5 million likes on TikTok with videos that look suspiciously like they were illicitly filmed in parliament or tweeting out a YouTube link to a (dreadful) song based on her maiden speech, Zarah's ego is truly multi-platform. So imagine Steerpike's surprise in May when the Telegraph revealed the Coventry MP had spent over £700 of taxpayers’ money on an 'influencer toolkit.'
Asked to explain why she used parliamentary expenses to purchase an LED ring light designed for “Youtube video shooting, photography or makeup”, as well as a Canon camera and a professional microphone, Sultana's office claimed it would 'support their work' adding 'this report will not deter Zarah in campaigning against poverty and inequality.' Jolly glad to hear it.
— Zarah Sultana MP (@zarahsultana) October 27, 2021
But with talk already of an early election in 2023, Mr S is just hoping this parliament runs its full course. After all, with Labour still behind in the polls mid-term, the likelihood of Sultana retaining her seat next time looks uncertain. Given all she has managed to achieve in parliament in just two years, here's hoping she gets to make the most of another three.