When I heard that a republican former reality TV star with an unorthodox approach to politics had beaten the odds to win an historic election, I had to meet the man. No, I’m not talking about Donald Trump – quite the opposite…
Millennial trailblazer, Magid Magid, is the youngest ever Lord Mayor of Sheffield and the first to represent the Green Party. As a Somalia-born Muslim that rose to fame after taking part in Channel 4’s faux-fugitive show ‘The Hunted’, he’s a far cry from the string of pale-faced fogeys that have traditionally occupied the role.
On entering his antiquated Town Hall chambers, it is clear that Magid is anything but conventional. Where his predecessors adopted media-savvy stilted language during interviews and meetings, he could have filled a swear jar as we nattered in our thick Yorkshire accents.
When on duty, attending functions and leading council meetings, he respectfully wears the full regalia. But where the daily affairs of office were previously carried out in aloof business-like attire, Magid treats every day as dress-down-Friday. By donning a bright yellow backwards cap and slogan-laden T-shirt, he transforms the grandiose mayoral chain from repellent relic to urban bling.
While he describes the response to his appointment as being “overwhelmingly positive”, a few dissenting voices see his radical approach as an insult to the tradition of the office. Others accuse him of hypocrisy after he criticised the Monarchy for the same unnecessary pomp and ceremony that he now enjoys as he swans about in a chauffeur-driven limousine at taxpayer’s expense. The Hull University graduate hits the nail on the head in response – “you can’t please everyone!”.
How’s it going?
Just one month into the role, his tired demeanour betrays any attempt to hide the effects of a heavy work-load. Relentlessly bouncing from casework to meetings, interviews and official appointments is obviously taking its toll. Friends and family are keen for him to slow down rather than burning himself out, but “I know my own body” protests the mountaineering endurance runner while citing the fact that he only has 12-months to make a difference. But confesses that “this is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done”, adding that “it can be a thankless job, but it should never be a joyless job”, as his trademark grin returns.
Why is he putting himself through it?
Unashamedly left-wing, Magid passionately believes that “If you don’t do politics, politics does you”. The former Students Union President believes that decision-makers don’t always reflect the community that they profess to represent, so he took it upon himself to do something about it. He points out that councillors are often retirees with very different life experiences from many of today’s young people and ethnic minorities. This makes the world of politics seem daunting, which only perpetuates the problem. The onus to change that shouldn’t just be on the people that currently feel excluded. “What are councils doing to attract different people?” Magid asks in a moment of uncharacteristic seriousness.
So, what’s next?
Parliament doesn’t exactly match the demographics of the nation either, which begs an obvious question. The Green Party is popular in parts of Sheffield, so…
Magid laughs off the suggestion. He has no definite plans. “Nobody joins the Greens to have a career in politics” he quips. Bringing the conversation back to his primary motivation of inspiring others, he points out that “you don’t have to be a councillor, Lord Mayor, or MP to make a difference. I want to encourage people from all walks of life to think about how they can affect change”. Despite the lack of media training and naively unguarded persona, I wonder if he’s mastered the art of bridging (aka changing the subject). But Magid is an open book. When pressed on the constituency that he might choose, his response is simple and definite – “Sheffield Central”. Is Lord Mayor just the beginning…?