Who is Mhairi Black? MP unrepentant after calling government ‘pished’

·3-min read

Mhairi Black was told to be “quite careful” in Parliament after saying the government had been “pished” during the pandemic.

The offending word, the Scottish version of ‘pissed’, slang for very drunk, was in violation of Commons’ rules as to what Members of Parliament can say about each other.

The Scottish National Party MP also called the Tories “a dangerous government making bad decisions on top of a global pandemic” in a debate on Tuesday.

“But, mind you, we shouldn’t be surprised given the fact that they seem to have been pished half the time at parties at No 10,” she said to laughs around her.

Dame Rosie Winterton interrupted Ms Black by saying: “I should just say to the honourable lady, she really must not use language like that.”

The deputy speaker was referring to her using so-called unparliamentary language which breaks the precedent and rules of politeness in addressing fellow members.

Ms Black shot back: “[I mean] they were inebriated, intoxicated, they were paralytic, at parties in No 10… is that all right?”

“Be quite careful… Mhairi Black continue,” Dame Rosie said, to which Ms Black responded, “I don’t see what I said that wasn’t true madam deputy speaker but, I take it, I take it…”

Who is Mhairi Black?

Mhairi Black represents Paisley and Renfrewshire South (PA Archive)
Mhairi Black represents Paisley and Renfrewshire South (PA Archive)

The ‘pished’ debate was an amusing episode that was not out of character for the politician, who has been unafraid to speak up, especially on points around Scotland and her constituency Paisley and Renfrewshire South.

It was winning that seat in 2015 that first achieved her national fame as she defeated the incumbent who was Labour frontbencher Douglas Alexander and, in doing so, became the youngest MP aged just 20 years old.

But she wasted little time in getting stuck into frontline Westminster politics, using her maiden speech to attack the government’s record on food banks - which was viewed more than 10 million times online. She was also appointed to the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

Westminster did not feel homely and Ms Black called it an "old boys’ club" in 2016 before wondering if she would stand in the following year’s election - expressing her frustration about what can actually be achieved. But stand she did both in 2017 and in 2019 where she regained her seat but did lose her title as Britain’s youngest MP to then-23-year-old Nadia Whittome.

The SNP is best known for its signature policy of promoting Scottish Independence but Ms Black has made a name for herself as a promoter of socialist values, inspired by her hero Tony Benn, which has been seen in her opposition to Universal Credit measures.

Since December she has been deputy leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons and would have been well-placed to stand for leadership when Nicola Sturgeon departed but did not put herself forward.

Ms Black describes herself as Bible-reading but not religious and has long been a backer of same-sex marriage. She, herself, married her partner Katie in 2022.