Mhairi Black shocked many people in the UK—and thrilled an upcoming generation of politically-engaged young people—when she became, in May, a member of parliament at the age of just 20, the youngest MP since 1667. And her maiden speech has now been watched so far more than 10 million times.
Looking on YouTube, prime minister David Cameron’s addresses are routinely watched by a few thousand—often even a few hundred. Fellow Tory chancellor George Osborne’s recent budget has gotten under 14,000 views on its official channels (though, in fairness, those videos are an hour long).
Black’s speech, delivered to a tired-looking and sparcely-attended House of Commons, has fired people up across the nation, perhaps especially in her native Scotland, where people as young as 16 were able to vote for the first time in last year’s referendum on remaining part of the UK.
Black’s speech isn’t particularly strident, showy, or fierce. But it’s clever. She makes jokes. She has the measured, engaging delivery of a far more seasoned politician. One particularly stinging challenge is towards Osborne, who is in the process of cutting certain housing benefits.
MPs have their housing expenses paid, she notes, “but the chancellor also abolished any housing benefit for anyone under the age of 21.” That leads to “the ridiculous situation whereby because I am an MP, not only am I the youngest but I am also the only 20-year-old in the whole of the UK the chancellor is prepared to help with housing.”
Black became a member of the UK parliament following the May general election, representing the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Paisley and Renfrewshire.