Given the recent spate of no good, awful, very bad news, we’re all in need of a pick me up. Just as the daffodils have started peaking up above ground, brightening our city, these four MPs have emerged as a real spot of light. They’re not perfect (no one is) but in an overwhelming Conservative Parliament, we need to find the good where we can.
All four spoke at the Monday protest outside New Scotland Yard against both treatment of mourners at Clapham Common and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The latter would increase the risk of fine and arrest for protests like the one they spoke at. These MPs come from different parts of the UK but, on this issue at least, are all putting women’s safety first. While we need to keep the pressure on our representatives when we disagree with them, we should also encourage them when they’re doing well.
Nadia Whittome (@NadiaWhittomeMP). At 24, Whittome is the certified Baby of the House (the youngest sitting MP). She’s represented Nottingham East since 2019 and has already made a name for herself for her strong views and work as a carer over lockdown number one. While having already been embroiled in one scandal, she has shown how she is unwavering in her beliefs. She was removed as a parliamentary private secretary for opposing the government’s Overseas Operation Bill, which would exempt military personnel from prosecution for war crimes and torture . That’s pretty gutsy for an MP who had been elected under a year prior. She’s also unafraid of criticising whomever she sees fit, whether that’s Jeremy Corbyn or Keir Starmer . She’s an avid social media user, in the mould of America’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. More recently, she has been active in the Sister’s Uncut campaign against violence towards women and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. During the debate, she said in the Commons that ‘this marks the descent into authoritarianism’. She also reaffirmed her commitment to protecting women, saying that ‘we’re sick of male violence’ . Ms Whittome, you can say that again.
Bell Ribeiro-Addy (@BellRibeiroAddy). Ribeiro-Addy is the member for Streatham and has been since 2019. She has a long history of work as the National Black Students’ Officer for the NSU (2008-2010) and has continued her anti-racist activity as an MP. In her maiden speech, she called for the UK to pay monetary reparations to former colonies . That’s one hell of an introduction to an institution that simply does not talk about the legacy of the empire. Ribeiro-Addy is also the member for the part of South West London that Sarah Everard was abducted, giving her condemnation of male violence another layer of meaning. She has called for institutional change in the face of violence against women and the obscene police response . She also introduced an amendment to stop the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. While (unfortunately) unsuccessful, we need MPs who will at least try to do the right thing, even when it seems impossible.
Apsana Begum (@ApsanaAegumMP). Apsana Begum is the 30-year-old member for Poplar and Limehouse who also came into office in 2019 (sensing a pattern?). She made history as the first Muslim MP to wear a hijab. This hasn’t been an easy journey for Begum. She’s said that the abuse she’s received has been ‘quite horrendous’ and ‘quite personalised’ . Indeed, like so many female politicians, the attacks on her have been even greater for her large presence, compounded by her visible Muslim identity. However, she hasn’t let this stop her work, championing BAME communities who have been disproportionately affected by COVID . In an article opposing the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, she said that: ‘I will continue to oppose it, as a voice for my constituents, as a voice for all of those marginalised communities and as a voice for human rights and democracy’ . On a slightly darker note, Begum has been charged over housing fraud (which she is ‘vigorously contesting’ ). Begum will stand trial in July, but in the meantime, seems to remain devoted to her East London constituency.
Zarah Sultana (@ZarahSultana). At 27, Sultana represents Coventry South and has done so since 2019. She was selected as the Labour candidate on her 26th birthday, which is one hell of a gift (or burden, depending on your view). Her journey into politics began, like Ribeiro-Addy, as a student campaigner against the university fee hike. Since coming into office, much has been made of her youth, ethnicity, and Muslim identity. She has embraced all the things that make her so different from her colleagues. ‘I think it’s important that I don’t feel comfortable [in Parliament], there are people who probably want to be there for a very long time and that’s OK, but I see myself as someone who really wants to make a change’ . A politician that would rather get to work than sit on unused (or misused) power? That’s pretty refreshing. As a campaigner, she’s made student rights one of her top priorities. She’s called for fees for the 2019/2020 year to be scraped and even brought in her own student loan statement to Parliament to show that ‘education is a right, not a commodity’ , something I think, we can all agree on.