WATCH: Zarah Sultana MP confronts government on student debt

Elliot Chappell

Labour MP Zarah Sultana delivered a speech on Monday in which she confronted the government over the scale of student, brandishing her own loan statement.

The new MP for Coventry South questioned the minister for science and universities, Chris Skidmore, during an education debate in the House of Commons.

Sultana told the government spokesperson that her debt is nearly £50,000 and that the interest accrued in the last year alone amounted to over £2,000.

She challenged the fairness of asking “working class kids” to take on “colossal” levels of student debt in order to pursue further education at university.

Sultana was elected to parliament last month, when she retained the Coventry South constituency by just 401 votes.

In her first speech in parliament, she broke with the convention of giving a light-hearted speech to slam the Tories on their record in government.

She also criticised events that took place under the last Labour administration headed up by Tony Blair.

She said: “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 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 – we saved it. We have our work cut out but together we can do it.”

40 years ago Thatcher oversaw a structural shift towards privatisation in the UK, and famously once claimed that Tony Blair and New Labour were her greatest achievement.

Critics of Sultana argued that she should have distinguished between the Thatcher and Blair eras, and cited positives of the last Labour government including Sure Start and the introduction of a minimum wage.

Her speech also provoked debate between young Labour members over whether student debt or maintenance loans for further education are more problematic.

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