Of all the political surprises that came with this year’s General Election, it was one of the SNP’s 56 victories which captured the public’s attention most. Mhairi Black was just 20 years and 237 days old when she took the Paisley and Renfrewshire South seat from Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander. Though the lines have moved over time, she is known to be the youngest MP since at least 1832.
Black is one of the SNP’s seven MPs who identify as LGBTI – a strong percentage that is perhaps unsurprising in a party which has put the rights of minorities at the heart of its ethos, and hosted the largest ever political LGBT conference in February. Indeed the 2015 intake on the whole has more gay, lesbian and bisexual MPs than ever before – an estimated 32 – which is also more than any other parliament in the world.
Less than two weeks into the job, Black joined an SNP group in a photo call outside the Houses of Parliament calling for a Yes vote in Ireland’s same-sex marriage referendum. When asked about her decision to come out, she casually replied, “I’ve never been in.” Here, she echoed the sentiments of an entire generation who have grown up with the benefit of a more tolerant and equal society, where coming out is less of a thing, and being gay is less of an issue.
If there were any lingering scoffs or eyebrows yet raised about her age, they were monumentally dismissed when she gave her maiden speech on 14 July, just one month after graduating from the University of Glasgow. In it she attacked the country’s reliance on food banks, spoke of a man in her constituency who had to go hungry to afford a trip to the Job Centre (only to be sanctioned for getting there late), and pointed out that as an MP, she is the only 20-year-old in the country receiving help with her housing costs.
Even if she did nothing else (which is highly unlikely), the mere fact of Mhairi Black’s election is an inspiration to an entire generation of young people – LGBT or not – who are in dire need of organic, hard working talents to look up to and emulate, and for that she is Attitude’s Politician of the Year.
You can read more about Mhairi and the rest of our winners at the Attitude Awards in association with Virgin Holidays in our new issue. It's available to download at attitudedigital.co.uk from 11pm tonight, and in shops tomorrow.