Britain’s youngest MP has said she does not feel as if she belongs in the House of Commons as a “working-class woman of colour” because its procedures are designed to “exclude and alienate”.
In her maiden speech, newly-elected Labour MP Nadia Whittome, 23, blamed “old conventions and antiquated language” and said she has been made to feel she must “throw my community under a bus” to get along.
She also accused politicians of using their drug experiences at university to “build street cred”, while working-class people were being criminalised for drug dealing.
Whittome, who represents Nottingham East, had previously said she would only take a “worker’s wage” of £35,000 and donate the rest of her MP’s salary of £79,468 to charities.
The so-called baby of the house – the name given to the UK’s youngest MP – told MPs: “Historically so much happens in this building that is designed to exclude and alienate working-class people.
“The old conventions, the antiquated language. As a working-class woman of colour, I’m made to feel like I don’t belong here unless I throw my community under a bus.
“But that’s not what I’m here to do. Because when I first saw the results of the exit poll last month these are the first people I thought about.
“My friends who are one delayed universal credit payment away from homelessness.
“My neighbour who goes without hot meals so her children don’t have to.
“My friend’s teenage brother who ended up in prison for dealing weed when he had no other job opportunities, while those here on the front benches can use their drug experiences at university to build street cred.”
Explaining her decision not to take a full MP’s salary, she told MPs: “Of course MPs do an important job. But care workers, like I was proud to be before I became an MP, also do an extremely important job.
“And when care workers, retail workers, and NHS staff get their pay rise, I’ll take mine.”
She said teenagers’ climate activism was not a “whim of youth” and warned older colleagues “if you don’t let us dream, we will not let you sleep”.
Whittome said: “I’m also here to represent the burning planet and the generation that will be left to foot the bill and save it from catastrophic climate change.
“We’re a generation that is brave, collaborative and outward-looking. We’re determined to fight for a future in which everyone can breathe clean air and live well.
“These are not the whims of youth, they are the deadly serious response to an existential crisis and the moral bankruptcy of our economic system.”
She added: “My generation wants a future. We want a planet we can live on, wages we can live on and we want opportunities that make life worth living.
“And let me tell you something. If you don’t let us dream, we won’t let you sleep.”
She paid tribute to her predecessor Chris Leslie, a former Labour shadow chancellor who resigned from the party to join Change UK last year, for his work supporting Gordon Brown in the Treasury.