Mhairi Black made history by becoming the youngest lawmaker in UK history since the 17th century
Mhairi Black, the freshly elected lawmaker from Scotland, will soon be heading down from her constituency of Paisley and Renfrewshire South to Westminster. But she has an immediate challenge ahead of her: getting her university degree.
Black is all of 20 years old. And Friday, she made history by becoming the youngest lawmaker in UK history since the 17th century.
Ms. Black toppled a political heavyweight
She was up against one of the best-known Labour MPs left in Scotland, Douglas Alexander, who was defending a majority of more than 16,000. He was not only shadow foreign secretary but had lots of election experience in abundance, enough to secure him the job of Labour’s UK campaign coordinator. If he had been elected, and had Labour come to power, he would have become the new foreign secretary, a position similar to the Secretary of State in the U.S.
But in the end, her 23,548 votes outstripped her opponent — Alexander ended the night with 17,864 votes — overturning the veteran’s huge majority from the 2010 general election. Alexander has represented the area since 1997, and today marks the first time for 70 years that the constituency has not been a Labour seat.
Mhairi Black is the youngest MP since 1667
In 1667, after being “returned as knight of the shire,” Christopher Monck took his place in Parliament when he was just 13.
Sure, there have been other young parliamentarians, but none as young as Black — in the last 350 years.
Most recently, former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy was elected into Westminster at the tender age of 23. But he was three years older than Black is now.
The 20-year-old University of Glasgow student won big
Some of her obstacles were self-inflicted, resurrected comments on social media – such as her expression of hatred for Celtic football club, normally the kiss of death for candidates in the west of Scotland, potentially alienating a large slice of the electorate from the outset.
None of it mattered. The 20-year-old University of Glasgow student won anyway, riding the SNP surge that has engulfed Scotland, comfortably overturning Alexander’s majority with more than 23,000 votes.
“The fact is that people have woken up to the fact that Westminster has not been serving them and the Labour party has not been serving them,” she said.
She gave a gracious victory speech, praising her predecessor warmly. “While I appreciate that this is a blow from Douglas Alexander, I truly hope he will remain to see his future in politics once he has recovered from this result,” she said.
— Mhairi Black (@mhairi1921) May 8, 2015
Her message to voters was inclusive: “Whether you voted for the SNP or not, and whatever your views are on Scotland’s future, I will seek to represent you and everyone in this constituency to the very best of my ability,” she said. “This election is about making the voice of this constituency and the whole of Scotland heard more effectively at Westminster than ever before.”