Politics: Being the ‘Baby of the House’
At age 24, Nadia Whittome is currently the youngest member of the House of Commons. This has earned her the unofficial title ‘Baby of the House’. Whilst Nadia says that title is a bit infantilising, she feels very proud to be the youngest MP, representing the lives and experiences of her generation.
“I’m the first ‘Generation Z’ MP (Member of Parliament). I see it as my role not just to be in Parliament myself but to amplify the voices of other young people… We are a generation that has a very different outlook. Often people say young people don’t have life experience, but we just have a very different life experience and that life experience needs to be represented in Parliament.
“It is a real privilege to be the first BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) MP in Nottingham. We’re a very diverse city. I feel that I stand on the shoulders of giants, not just people who paved the way nationally for women and people of colour, but also in my city.
It’s the biggest honour of my life to be able to represent the people of my home city, where I was born and grew up, and where I live now.
“I am born to immigrant parents, first and second generation. It’s a great privilege to be able to represent my community after all the struggle that they went through, and that all immigrants go through.”
Nadia is pleased to be breaking down gender barriers as well, though she says there is still a lot of work to be done: “Still under half of all MPs are women. It’s not just about MPs either - women's representation in local councils, especially in senior leadership roles, is still low. Women’s representation at all levels in all roles in society needs to be better.
My mum always says she's most proud of who I am - not because of my achievements.
“I see my role as not just to be a leader in my own right - or as a means to an end - but to create new leaders and to empower other people to join me as MPs, or to do whatever they’re passionate about as a way of affecting change.”
My route to becoming an MP
Nadia says: “I didn’t finish all my A-levels. I did an access course to Law at a local further education college. I then studied Law at Nottingham University, but I dropped out because it became too expensive. Whilst I was studying, I worked as a care worker. After that I worked as a hate crime project worker.
“When I was 16, I joined a local campaign against the bedroom tax. That was the tipping point from anger into action, rather than disempowerment.
“Politics… wasn’t something I thought about as a career until I stood to become the candidate for Nottingham East. The incumbent MP resigned so there was a vacancy. It was never about a career option - politics has come from my lived experience.”
You have to be extremely resilient and thick-skinned... It’s very important to do self-care.
Nadia says being an MP is not a nine-to-five job: “They can be very long days - sometimes I’ll start my day at 5.30am and won’t finish until after midnight. That’s not a normal day, but it’s always at least a 12-hour day.
“Monday to Thursday, Parliament sits, I’m in Westminster. Then I go back home to Nottingham on Thursday night, sometimes Wednesday. I spend Friday, Saturday, Sunday at home in Nottingham. I visit local organisations, businesses in my constituency and do my constituency casework surgeries.
“Often in the week, I’ll do media interviews, I'll speak in the chamber at least once a week on issues that are important to my constituents, and important to the interests that I represent.”
Nadia adds: “Being an MP is not the only way to impact change. Grassroots direct action is powerful and important. My advice is: keep doing what you’re doing. Many young people are doing amazing activism, whether it’s on the streets or on Instagram or raising awareness of things on Tik Tok, and speaking to friends and family about the big issues of today.
“Know that you’re powerful and that your voice matters, and that you are worthy and you have a valuable contribution to make. Lots of people along the way will make you feel as though you’re not and you don’t, but you are and you do!”