'I haven't got the privilege of toning it down': Magid Magid on lessons learned from council to European Parliament

With his customary backwards-cap, MEP Magid Magid joins in a Yorkshire for Europe rally in Harrogate on Wednesday. Picture: Lachlan Leeming
With his customary backwards-cap, MEP Magid Magid joins in a Yorkshire for Europe rally in Harrogate on Wednesday. Picture: Lachlan Leeming

You'd be forgiven for thinking the hallowed halls of local council are a world away from the bright lights and heavyweight personality clashes of European Parliament.

Not so, according to Yorkshire's maverick MEP 'Magic' Magid Magid.

Yorkshire for Europe in full-voice at Harrogate on Wednesday.

Yorkshire for Europe in full-voice at Harrogate on Wednesday.

Much has been written about the backwards-cap wearing, rap-squatting, Somalia-born renegade's approach to the frequently stodgy atmosphere of local and national politics.

However, during a whirlwind meet-and-greet trip throughout Yorkshire this week, Magid played down the differences between his former Sheffield town hall stomping ground and the European Union's Brussels-headquarters.

"At the opening of parliament a lot of people were really emotional...I remember thinking why does it mean so much to them?" he told the Local Democracy Reporter service.

"It's just a building, it's just another place where decisions are made."

Magid, who was first elected to Sheffield City Council in 2016 and was the city's Lord Mayor until his election to European Parliament two months ago, said it was crucial that both local and national governments reflected the people they represented - especially at a time when the impacts of austerity and Brexit-tension swirl across the country.

"My experiences - coming to this country as a refugee, living through poverty - shape my viewpoint and fuels me at times as well, so of course I come at things from a different aspect," he said.

"One of the reasons for me being elected is and having a lot of attention is due to failed democracy in some sense, if you think of the people that we choose to represent us, they don't reflect the people they represent - you look at local (level), Sheffield City Council, it definitely doesn't reflect Sheffield as a whole."

"Basically our national government cabinet is like...how are they meant to understand the effects of austerity on our society?

"I don't think we're ever going to have an equal and fair society with those people in power."

The Greens MEP said his out-spoken, eye-catching approach to politics had ensured one thing had remained consistent between council and parliament: the level of media attention he receives.

"There's definitely similarities between being Lord Mayor of Sheffield...I get so much media coverage all across Europe, which has given me an opportunity to talk about our region Yorkshire and the Humber," he said.

"People say maybe you should tone it down, but I haven't got the privilege of toning it down...it's not like I'm going out of my way to be controversial, but what's the opposite of being controversial?

"It's choosing to be ignored, and I can't choose to be ignored and be like 'everything's all fine'...for me it's doing things my way with the best of intentions and seeing what happens."

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter