Labour Firebrand Laura Pidcock Admires Mhairi Black But Says Mum Is Her True Hero
There aren’t many MPs who use their maiden speech to say the House of Commons “reeks of the establishment and power”.
But then Laura Pidcock, who has been elected as the new Labour MP for North West Durham, has not made it to Parliament to play it safe.
The outspoken anti-racism campaigner and staunch trade unionist is very much at home in Jeremy Corbyn’s remodelled Labour Party, and is tipped to climb far and fast.
Daughter of a catholic priest turned Labour councillor, the 29-year-old admits she admires straight-talking SNP MP Mhairi Black and made headlines when she said she would not befriend a Tory MP.
Her real hero is her mum, a former hairdresser who skipped school but returned to education later in life to become a social worker and Labour councillor.
Where were you born and raised?
“I was born in Rake Lane Hospital in North Shields, which is in North Tyneside. I was raised in New Hartley, then Seaton Delaval, both of which are in Northumberland, before moving away to Manchester for university.”
What did you want to be when you were 16?
“I genuinely don’t think I had a clue. I was interested in lots of things but don’t think I really thought about a job.
“Sixteen is too young to know exactly what you want to do. I try and refrain from asking my nieces what job they want to do when they are older because they are more than ‘just’ workers, I tend to ask them what they are interested in now.
“I went to college at 16 and found a new social group and started going out and having a lot of fun. I was always quite a serious soul though so whilst I was maybe less focused on a job, I was still really interested in societal issues.”
When did you first become interested in politics?
“Growing up in the house I did, you could not escape politics. It is not like I suddenly started reading political books or attending conferences.
“I was taught to see everything through a political lens, just as you are taught to read and write, it was automatic in my house.
“There were conversations at the dinner table. We went to demos as a family, we argued in a comradely way, we challenged each other and it was normal to have an opinion.”
Who is your political hero?
“Is it cringey to say my mam? She is absolutely fearless. She is the strongest person I know and always says what she means even when it is hard.
“She made it her business to get involved in politics. She grew up in poverty and was one of seven. She knew that the poverty she endured was not her fault, it was structural.
“She often couldn’t go to school because they couldn’t afford a uniform, so she made sure that she went back to study when she was older. She also was adamant that me, my brother and sister all went to University.”
Who is your favourite politician from another party?
“Don’t make me do this. I do really like Mhairi Black. I enjoy listening to her. She is someone that people can relate to. She communicates in a way that is accessible and cuts through lots of the political rubbish which is designed to alienate people from political processes.
“There are many activists who I admire though, people who fight tirelessly for societal change on the streets and in the workplace, far too many to mention.
“So much political change comes from the grassroots movements rather than from Parliament.”
What did you do before becoming an MP?
“For years, I was an anti-racism education worker, delivering workshops and training teachers. I also wrote resources for the same organisation: Show Racism the Red Card.
“I then became manager of the team so had to find the funding to maintain jobs in the team and developed anti-racism programmes. It is a wonderful organisation which works tirelessly to help young people question media manipulation and consider an alternative world view.”
If you could run any Government department which would it be?
“This is hard because there is so much that needs changing. I have a strong vision of how the education system could be transformed and a strong belief that education is a right rather than a privilege.
“To make this a reality there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way in which education is funded and an end to the acceptability that education can be commodified.
“We have moved so far away from the idea that education is a societal good, that it is a resource to help us live rich and meaningful lives, rather than just a tool to be competitive in the jobs market.
“Having worked in hundreds of schools, I saw the stark difference between the more affluent and poorer areas and the impact that has on educational outcomes.
“I worked in one private school and I was really upset by the experience; the small classrooms, the outstanding meals provided, the readiness of the young people to learn because they had full bellies – it was all in stark contrast to the poorest areas I had worked in and I am still outraged that we let such inequality prevail.
“I cannot think of anyone better than Angela Rayner however to be Secretary of State for Education in waiting. She has the perfect background to understand the change we need to effect.”
What was the last book you read?
“It was ‘Find a Way’ by Diana Nyad, who became the first person to swim the shark-infested waters between Cuba and Florida with no cage for protection.
“She first tried to do this at 28 and finally achieved it at 64 on her 5th attempt. I love swimming but I am a bit fearful of swimming in the sea. I am just filled with admiration for her, her determination is astounding, she just kept going, kept trying and had ultimate faith in her own abilities.”
Who is your favourite band/artist?
“I love all sorts of music. I listen to the XX, Jamie XX, Laura Marling, I like drum and bass, classical, reggae, all sorts. I am open minded to listening to any genre really.
“I also absolutely love Beyonce, she is an inspiration.”
What’s your favourite film?
“I can’t choose one! Here are some films I was gripped by: I, Daniel Blake, Suffragette, Selma, This is England, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Cry Freedom, Pride and I thought that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was a beautiful film.”
What is the one thing you would change about UK politics if you could?
“There has to be a fundamental shift in who has the power in this country. Every element of our society needs to be democratised.
“Political education should be compulsory so that people understand the system and how power is taken and used in society. Voting should be much easier. This would just be a start.”
Which three words would your best friend use to describe you?
“I asked my two best friends to do this for me because it is too embarrassing to guess. They said: selfless, compassionate and brave.”