NEWLY elected Coventry MP Zarah Sultana, 26, ‘broke convention’ by launching an outspoken attack against the Conservative government in her first House of Commons speech – saying her generation had been let down.
The left-winger – who once said she would celebrate the death of ex-Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair – used her maiden speech to also say that working class communities like hers had experienced the Conservatives “waging war” against them.
Ms Sultana was parachuted in to Coventry South to become a shortlisted Labour candidate to replace ex-MP Jim Cunningham, with support from her colleagues at West Midlands Labour Party office and Unite the union.
The former King Edward VI Handworth, Birmingham grammar school pupil was elected at the general election on December 12 following a recount, with a majority of 401 – down from 7,947 in 2017.
On Wednesday (January 15) in Parliament, she fired a broadside against the Conservative Party covering issues such as deindustrialisation, climate change and ‘austerity’.
She told the House: “I know convention is for maiden speeches to avoid saying anything members opposite will find very disagreeable, but I can’t do that.
“Because my generation has only ever faced a future of rising rents, frozen wages and diminishing opportunities.”
Calling for “a class struggle without borders” to fight climate change, Ms Sultana said: “For my whole adult life I have only known Tory governments that wage war on working class communities like mine. Cutting our services, underfunding our schools and hospitals, saddling me and my generation with tens of thousands of pounds of student debt.
“I’m a working class Muslim woman and I know Bullingdon boys will never be on my side and they will never be on the side of shop stewards in Coventry, cleaners in Carlisle, migrant workers in Manchester or teachers in Tottenham.
“And I know that a government that abandons refugee children abroad will just as quickly abandon working class children in Britain – where one in three already live in poverty.”
She also paid tribute to the work of Mr Cunningham, saying: “Jim has been a champion for the city – fighting for Coventry to get its fair share of regional investment, defending our industries and speaking up for causes from the WASPI women to Rowan’s Law.
“I know Jim was renowned for the frequency of his interventions in the House. As the new member for Coventry South, I aim to continue that tradition and I wish him well in his retirement.”
As the House of Commons prepares for extensive renovations during the current Parliament, Ms Sultana also suggested MPs could sit in Coventry.
She pointed out that Coventry had on several occasions been the capital of England and Henry IV had convened a parliament here.
She added: “Given we will have to move out of this place for renovations, may I suggest that we bring Parliament back to Coventry, to put power in the heart of the Midlands?
Looking ahead to the challenge facing her generation, the 26-year-old concluded: “Ten years ago I was sitting my GCSEs at school. I was a teenager and I never dreamed I would be here today.
“In ten years time, at the start of the next decade, I want to look teenagers in the eye and say, with pride – my generation faced 40 years of Thatcherism – and we ended it.
“We faced rising racism – and we defeated it.
“We faced a planet in peril – and we saved it.
We have our work cut out, but together we can do it.”