Mhairi Black, now there’s a parliamentary orator. She may be ‘the baby of the House’ (its youngest Member) but in the Commons she is perhaps the most exciting speech-maker of them all.
Miss Black, 23, is the Scots Nat MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, who was still a student when in 2015 she defeated former Labour Cabinet minister Douglas Alexander.
Some people were amazed that she had managed to topple steady Mr Alexander, an inoffensive Centrist. I am amazed only that she did not thrash him by a greater margin.
Miss Black, 23, is the Scots Nat MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, who was still a student when in 2015 she defeated former Labour Cabinet minister Douglas Alexander
Her victory was an example of the electorate becoming fed up with a soundbite-smooth, lawyerly evasion-perfecting technocracy. Instead the people of Paisley opted for more dramatic, decisive politics. Who can blame them?
Yesterday Miss Black made a short speech in an Opposition Day debate on universal credit. Opposition Day debates are not particularly important events.
Nor need we trouble ourselves – this being a parliamentary sketch, not an article in the Economist – with the minutiae of the arguments in favour of and against the Conservatives’ policy, which has broadly been to push people into work rather than making it easy for them to live off benefits.
Yesterday’s employment figures, which showed another jump in jobs, suggest that the Tories’ welfare policies have been a success. But that is by the by.
Let us instead examine how Miss Black put across her feelings against universal credit, which she wanted to be halted.
The most important thing is that she spoke without a script. Nor had she learned her text by heart. She spoke it extempore, lending it an immediacy, urgency.
Yesterday Miss Black made a short speech in an Opposition Day debate in the Commons on universal credit. Opposition Day debates are not particularly important events
She was attired in her usual smart, boyish grey suit, hair scraped back in the two-directional style she has made her own. Pshaw, some will say, what does it matter what she wears or how she looks?
You sketchers should not talk about appearances! You are sexist! To which I say: baloney. Miss Black, probably more by accident than intention, has already created for herself an image, a brand, a trademark.
Jacob Rees-Mogg has done the same with his dark three-piece suits. Boris Johnson has his blond mop. Tony Benn had his pipe, Churchill his siren suits. Politics is, at least in part, theatre, and theatre demands costume.
Now see how Miss Black used her limbs. At times she almost crouched, like a skier going over bumps, as she injected feeling into her remarks.
Each time she dipped her knees you could sense that she felt intensely her arguments about how her constituents’ lives were made more difficult by universal credit.
The arms were not just waved like a windmill. They were more dramatic than that. It was as if Miss Black was on a dancefloor, punching out the rhythm to something punk-rockish (though she is too young for that).
She threw her shoulders into her gesticulations as she bawled ‘lessen ’us’ (listen to us!). Her strong accent is another oratorical strength.
She threw her shoulders into her gesticulations as she bawled ‘lessen ’us’ (listen to us!). Her strong accent is another oratorical strength. Pictured: Miss Black at the SNP conference in May 2015
This is not a woman who has been tamed by the metropolis. That accent gives voice to her political authenticity. ‘We’re not making this up!’ she shouted at the Government bench. ‘We’re coming to you with genuine problems!’
The sinews on her neck protruded with the effort. And as she sat down she was plainly so caught up in her message she almost twitched, immediately crossing one leg over its opposite knee and folding her arms. A riveting performance.
If only Conservatives would sometimes speak with equal fervour about the moral depravity of ever-greater public debt!
Or compare Miss Black’s artistry with a couple of worthy but exceedingly ordinary speeches made on the same side of the universal credit argument by Labour MPs Anna McMorrin (Cardiff N) and Thelma Walker (Colne Valley) – the latter not only delivered, pathetically, off a printed script, but also bunged up with slogans.
Miss Black is golden.