Fearless optimism – an interview with Magid Magid MEP
Finding an upbeat politician might seem a challenge in 2019. Yet Magid Magid – newly elected MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber – is exactly that. Impassioned and funny, when Bright Green meets him at the 2019 Young Green Convention he can’t go two steps without talking to someone new. With Brexit strangling Britsh politics and MPs drowning in constitutional technicalities, it’s refreshing to see a politician who is getting stuck in with the job.
But in fact, just like the British parliament, the European Parliament is currently on recess – not that this has stopped Magid from working. He’s been touring his constituency and speaking in the national media, all to make the most of what could be only a five month term in Brussels.
But if Brexit does happen on 31 October, Magid is clear about what comes next.
“Back to campaigning. The next day I will be out campaigning to give myself a bit of sanity,” he said.
“We have not even discussed trade deals or what’s going to happen, what will be put in its place, so there will always be campaigning surrounding Brexit.
He adds: “If that’s saying how can we rejoin the EU then that would be a campaign in itself.”
In his talk to the Young Greens earlier in the day Magid noted that the Greens are the only party campaigning on a ‘remain and reform’ platform, acknowledging both the benefits of EU membership but also where the union has huge space for improvement.
So what would Magid most like to see changed about the EU?
“I would want the EU to broaden out its election for the commission to every EU citizen, I think that would make people feel like they have more of a say,” he explains.
“But also I want the EU to have a tougher stance on people like Italy and Hungary who are outwardly racist and start actually creating some sort of safe passages, having a bit more courage rather than trying to play the middle man and not piss people off, to come out and have a stance.”
Magid’s maiden speech in parliament made the same argument – and named Italian Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and his supporters in Brussels cowards for their hostility towards migrants crossing the Mediterranean. The MEP’s defiant belief that supporters of refugees will win against the populist right has added weight given Magid’s own journey from Somalian refugee to Green Party politician.
It’s this narrative and his down-to-earth, laid back persona that have helped Magid to make such an impact since he gained a national audience when he became the youngest, first Somali and first Green Lord Mayor of Sheffield.
Magid isn’t the stereotypical Green Party member and he believes it’s his determination to speak to those who wouldn’t usually engage with the party that has made him so popular.
He explains: “I actively go out to a lot of different circles, it’s not a case of waiting for people to come and engage with me.
“It’s done in a different way that’s a bit more accessible to people who are not just thinking Green Party, Green Party, Green Party.
“Because at times there can be some stereotypes about Green Party people and what not and I guess myself I am not that stereotype.”
Ultimately Magid thinks he has won people over just by being himself – he comments that he is popular amongst the catering staff in Brussels, who have perhaps been more supportive of him than they strictly should be.
With political success has come media attention. Though Magid has largely been greeted warmly by the press, it might be expected that the sudden limelight would take its toll. Instead the 30-year-old seems unaffected as of yet.
“I’ve got a lot of friends that ground me, but also I’m just so busy that I don’t have time to reflect, which probably isn’t a positive thing in a sense. I have just been working, go go go all the time,” he explains.
His Sheffield roots and the time he spends in the city help too. Magid likes to push himself out of his comfort zone, but believes he remains in tune with what is happening in his local patch too.
In fact, its clear that local politics are still important to him, even though he now has the chance to tackle European-wide issues. For young people looking to follow in his path, Magid reckons issues close to home are the place to start.
He said: “Honestly just start local – I started out trying to stop the local library from closing down.
“And if there isn’t an organisation or community that’s organised close to you, you can find one online. I feel like there’s always something that you are passionate about or something that you want to improve.”
Most importantly though, young people should believe that they are just as qualified for a role in politics as someone older.
“Believe that if you want to you can create some sort of change,” Magid emphasises.
If there was ever a time for Magid’s brand of fearless optimism, it has to be now.
Header image credit: BBC