I think it was when she described Margo MacDonald as ‘just magic’ that I fell in love with Mhairi Black. As summations of pivotal political figures go, it’s akin to a first-time Labour parliamentary candidate calling Nye Bevan an absolute mad lad. This is how Black speaks, assessing political history as if she’s talking about that time Architects played the Cathouse. It’s not what you might expect from a middle-class lassie from Ralston, but it’s nothing so cynical as an act. Glasgow zillennial patter is a rhetorical mix of imported American sitcoms and a self-consciously Scottish tone. It’s like someone remade The Big Bang Theory with an all-Weegie cast.
Black has announced that she won’t contest the next general election, which is why I’m recalling her thoughts on Margo MacDonald. MacDonald, incidentally, was also dismissed early on as brash and vulgar because she talks like a normal person rather than a walking press release. Like MacDonald, Black’s election brought with it a tsunami of media attention. I’m not convinced the SNP did all it could to protect Black, who was, at just 20, the youngest MP elected since 1832. The week after she won, I interviewed her over coffee at Portcullis House. (I say coffee: it was Irn-Bru and crisps. We’re Scottish, deal with it.) I remember thinking at the time that she was too young and too quixotic. Westminster was going to swallow her whole.
In her announcement, made on Tuesday afternoon, Black attacked Westminster as ‘outdated, sexist and toxic’, adding:
‘I have also made clear that I have no desire to have a long career in elected politics, and as we approach the next general election, I will have been elected for almost a decade. I have dedicated a third of my life so far to Westminster – a truly unhealthy working environment.’
This is another reason to like Black: she doesn’t want to be a politician all her life.