“There is always hope”: Labour MP Nadia Whittome on what lies ahead for British politics

Nadia Whittome, the Labour MP for Nottingham East and Britain’s youngest MP, talks to Chloe Laws about the state of UK politics and what hope there may be after Boris Johnson’s promise to stand down.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have spent the last few days refreshing Twitter every two seconds, watching with bated breath as more than 50 MPs resigned from government, pushing Boris Johnson to do the same (although he is planning to stay in a caretaker role until autumn). But where does the country go from here?

When Nadia Whittome entered politics in December 2019 aged just 23, her youth granted her the Commons title of “Baby of the House”. In the three years since, she’s made her mark on her Nottingham East constituency, become one of Labour’s household names and been a force to be reckoned with in parliament.

 As a young, queer woman of colour, Nadia’s voice is necessary and much underrepresented in politics. Here, she gives us her thoughts on how to proceed in this trying and confusing time. 

How are you feeling about the news that Boris Johnson has agreed to stand down?

I’m glad that he’s going. He’s completely unfit for office and should have resigned long ago. He’s only doing so now because he’s been forced out – he didn’t resign over his mishandling of the pandemic or after he tried to change the rules about lobbying to get one of his MPs off the hook or for breaking the laws he made and partying while people died.

What happens now?

There will now be an election for a new Conservative Party leader. Boris Johnson wants to remain prime minister while that takes place, but many people are trying to make him stand down immediately. If he were to stand down now, an interim prime minister would be appointed.

Any thoughts on the next Conservative leader?

A lot of people have been asking me who should take over as leader of the Conservative Party. There really are no good options here. Who do we have to choose from? Rishi Sunak, a multi-millionaire whose family has dodgy tax arrangements. Priti Patel, our completely heartless home secretary who is deporting people to Rwanda. Suella Braverman, who used anti-semiticterminology when speaking about “cultural Marxism”. Ben Wallace, who has voted against LGBTQ+ equality at every opportunity. Steve Baker, a climate change sceptic.

None of them will take the action needed to ease the crushing financial pressures on people. That’s why we need a general election and a Labour government. But the truth is that the whole Conservative Party shares the blame. The Tories have been in power for more than a decade – foodbank use has rocketed to the point that there are more foodbanks than there are McDonalds, our public services have been ripped to shreds, and so many Tory MPs have taken on lucrative second jobs or helped friends and funders get government contracts. A change of prime minister is not enough – we need a change of government.

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Why shouldn’t Johnson stay on until autumn?

He cannot govern effectively when the majority of MPs no longer support him. His recent actions – particularly his resistance to resigning and briefings that he was prepared to dissolve parliament and wouldn’t go even in the event of a vote of no confidence – show that he cannot be trusted to remain in that position.

What should Labour be doing and offering right now, in your opinion?

The problem isn’t just Boris Johnson, it’s this whole Conservative government. We need to explain this; to push for a general election, and to set out what we would do differently as a Labour government.

I want to see us put out bold policies to tackle the cost of living crisis, to address the climate emergency, and to end this scandalous inequality that sees British billionaires owning £653 billion (and counting) between them, while people who actually work for a living are forced to choose between heating and eating.

What are your hopes for the future of UK politics?

Politics has been really bleak recently, but it doesn’t have to be this way. We need politicians who truly represent the people who elected them instead of their own self-interests and that of their wealthy donors.

I want tougher rules to take dirty money out of politics, electoral reform so that every person has a vote that matters and a Labour government that is committed to redistributing wealth and power away from the super-rich back into the hands of people who created it: workers. 

People are feeling helpless  the cost of living crisis, war, scandal after scandal, women’s rights being threatened  is there any hope to cling on to? How should people be channelling or mobilising their anger?

There is always hope. Things that previously seemed impossible are now reality and change sometimes comes faster than anyone can predict.

History shows us that it’s not politicians that make change, it’s movements. So we need to work together – in our communities, in our workplaces, on the streets – to campaign for better pay, better rights and the kind of society we want to build.

If you’re not in a trade union, join one. Care about an issue? Find a grassroots group that’s working on it and get involved. Attend demonstrations in your nearest town or city.

Voices like yours are such a minority in parliament. What can people do to support you or to change this?

We need a greater diversity of people in parliament. I particularly want to see more MPs from working-class backgrounds, more young people, more disabled people and more trans people. All these groups are severely underrepresented.

But change at the top isn’t enough – and someone’s identity does not guarantee their political views. Margaret Thatcher, for example, was terrible on women’s rights. Priti Patel, the child of refugees, has no problem with deporting vulnerable people to Rwanda. We need to win proper structural change. 

Images: Getty

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