Mhairi Black is considering quitting 'depressing' Westminster – she won't be missed

Dour of Scotland: Black has bemoaned having to travel to work, as well as the ‘troubling’ people she encounters once there: Getty Images
Dour of Scotland: Black has bemoaned having to travel to work, as well as the ‘troubling’ people she encounters once there: Getty Images

The great question with Mhairi Black is whether or not to take her seriously. Personally, I always have done. I was, for example, not “blown away” by her maiden speech, as literally millions of Facebook sharers were. Of course, she spoke fearlessly and brilliantly, with an eloquence and stature that was almost frightening to witness in a then 20 year old. But, 20 or otherwise, she’s an elected MP, she deserves to be taken seriously, to be listened to, and what she said was profoundly stupid.

She quoted her “political hero” Tony Benn, who once spoke of “weathercocks and signposts” in politics, the former who will “spin in whatever direction the wind of public opinion may blow them”, and the latter who “stand true and tall and principled”.

Now, strong winds currently blow through politics, so it may be that Black is genuinely of the view that her signpost credentials are intact, having blown off the Labour Party, who she used to support, to take up the cause of Scottish nationalism.

But evidently it had escaped her attention, both then and now, that the very purpose of parliamentary democracy is to compromise, to get one’s hands dirty, to find the middle ground and walk forward upon it. You do not need to study, for example, the three decade long parliamentary career of Jeremy Corbyn to know that those who will not compromise are signposts that point the way to nothing beyond than their own fundamental pointlessness.

So we should take Mhairi Black seriously when she says, for example, in her interview with the Sunday Post yesterday, that she finds working in parliament “depressing”, partly due to “coming up and down every week”, a reality she might have been expected to foresee, but more so that “you are working with a number of people you find quite troubling”.

Black is startled too then, that there are merely 53 fellow Scottish Nationalists among Westminster’s 650 MPs: that the breakup of the United Kingdom is only a minority cause in the United Kingdom Parliament. Certainly, it hasn’t occurred to her that, maybe, she is one the “troubling” ones.

She is also “sick of folk mentioning her age”, so I will only do so briefly, to point out that it is the exclusive reason anybody knows who she is. To be elected to Parliament at the age of 20 is a remarkable achievement. To be elected an SNP MP certainly is not. You do not have to look very hard at the very unremarkable folk on the SNP benches, as I spend a too large proportion of my life doing, to know that.

This is not necessarily an insult. If any political party had 94.6 per cent of its parliamentary candidates returned to office, as the SNP did in 2015, the public galleries of the House of Commons would soon start stealing day trippers from London Zoo.

She also finds the structures of the place arcane, complaining that “so little gets done”. Certainly, Westminster has been reticent to deliver Black’s principal objective, the breakup of the United Kingdom, but even irregular watchers of Westminster would conclude that the political class have been pretty double busy since Mhairi’s arrival in the middle of 2015, and they are doing her job far more effectively than she could ever have hoped to.

You don’t have to read too hard between the lines to see that Black would rather be where the action is – in Holyrood. To be stuck in the wrong one-party state must be a constant frustration. For most opposition MPs, it tends to be a case of styling it out for a decade or so for another crack at government. Not the greatest inconvenience when you're 48, when you know full well you’ll be 58 in about six months. But when it’s your twenties at stake, and you don’t even want to be in government anyway, well that’s a heavy price to pay.

She says she “doesn’t know” if she will stand again, though if she gets her way, Scottish participation at Westminster will have months left to run come the 2020 election. “I think you should only stand in politics if you think there is a need for you to be in it,” she said.

Perhaps she needn’t worry. Her predecessor as “baby of the house”, by the way, was Labour’s Pam Nash, who won one of Scotland’s safest Labour seats, Airdrie and Shotts, when she was 26, and would occasionally confide to friends in slightly worried tone that “I could be here for the next 60 years”. She was gone in five, and if the SNP are any cop, Black won’t have to hang around for long.

Certainly, if she thinks Westminster does not “need” Scottish nationalism, well, she’s finally right about something.