'What Is Tradition? Just Peer Pressure from Dead People' – A Catch-Up with Magid Magid

The Green Party politician is into his second week as an MEP.
July 8, 2019, 10:56am
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Magid Magid. Photo courtesy of Magid Magid.

You know Magid Magid from the time he became Lord Mayor of Sheffield and announced it by Slav-squatting on a banister in all his ceremonial jewellery. Now, the 30-year-old Green Party politician is an MEP, and hit the headlines last week after claiming that, when he turned up to his new job wearing green Docs, his Glastonbury wristband and a T-shirt bearing the words "fuck fascism", he was asked to leave the European parliament chamber in Strasbourg.

A spokesperson for the European parliament claimed they don't know who asked him to leave, but that it wasn't an official, while the European Network Against Racism – a group made up of around 160 grassroots anti-racism organisations – believes the alleged incident represents a sinister pattern of discrimination: "To be successful in EU politics," they argued after the incident, "you must be white."

I wanted to find out what exactly had happened, so I gave Magid a call this weekend.

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Magid on his first day in the MEP job. Photo courtesy of Magid Magid.

VICE: Hey, Magid, what happened the other day?
Magid Magid: It was after the official opening of parliament. Someone basically just stepped to me and said, "Are you lost? You need to leave the building." I said: "Do I look lost? What do you mean?" Then he kind of smirked and walked off. If someone had genuinely made a mistake they could have said sorry. But the way he smirked was just arrogant.

Who do you think it was?
It was someone wearing a suit – nearly everyone in that place wears boring suits. I remember it clearly; I'd be able to spot them again. I don't know if they worked at parliament or they were an MEP themselves – it could have been a fascist for all I know. I don't know if it was because of my appearance or the colour of my skin that someone felt the need to approach me and tell me that I didn't belong there. It's not something that happens exclusively in the European parliament either; I'm used to situations like this. At first I was a bit pissed off – it's an all too familiar feeling – but then I just went about my day.

Is it going to change how you dress or behave?
No. You know what it is? When I was the Mayor of Sheffield, or when I was a councillor, I didn't change; only the environment changed. And just because that's going to change, doesn't mean that I’m going to change whatsoever. I'm still going to be me and go about my business. Everyone has been socially conditioned to think that a politician should look a certain way, so some people are like, "What the heck?" and some people say, "It's amazing, you can wear what you want." I'm like "you can wear what you want" too.

What motivated you to become an MEP?
I got into politics in the first place during the last European election. I was watching the rise of the far-right, there was so much hate and division – and I remember thinking that if I can do something in my small part of the world, Sheffield, at least I'll be able to contribute. After that, I thought, 'I have so much more to do.'

I saw you at Glastonbury…
Yeah, I was partying; when you go there it's hard not to. The other reason I was there was to speak at the Left Field stage – a music slash politics space. I spoke about how to tackle hate in all its forms. When you go to such a big place and people want to say hello, take pictures and have conversations it's touching.

What did you learn from the Lord Mayor job and are you taking that into the new role?
Yeah, I would say to never betray your character – it doesn't matter what the situation is. A lot of people will respect you for that. People are so stuck in tradition, but what is tradition? Just peer pressure from dead people. You can make new traditions.

What's the feeling among the British MEPs when they consider that they’re all going to be defunct pretty soon?
Of course there are a lot of people who are worried, but there’s a fair bit of optimism too. But yeah, some people are genuinely worried about it and I can understand why.

What do you think is going to happen with Brexit?
Mate, I can't see how parliamentary arithmetic will allow us to leave on the 31st [of October this year]. I feel like we’ll have some sort of extension. But we do live in such a weird political time where, when you think that will never happen, it ends up happening. It’s so unpredictable, you just never know.