Pastimes - David Linden
In her occasional series, Rosamund Urwin meets up with parliamentarians to discuss how they unwind away from Westminster. Here, David Linden extols the joys of Lego.
David Linden admits that he is “not on-brand” when it comes to his favourite Lego kit. As a Scottish National Party MP, Linden says that he doesn’t “particularly like Westminster”, yet he loves constructing the Houses of Parliament from plastic bricks. “That goes against the grain,” he laughs. “I’ve built it nine or 10 times; the attention to detail is phenomenal. And the Lego parliament is in a better state than the actual building.”
Linden, 31, who represents Glasgow East, has played with Lego since he was at primary school. He has enjoyed introducing his son, six, and daughter, three, to Lego, but also uses it alone to relax. “We’re in an age when constituents can contact you on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, email and phone, so I have to make a conscious decision to go away and play with my Lego,” he says. It also provides respite from political fire-fighting: “I’ve been an MP for four years and in that time, we’ve had Brexit, a pandemic and a recession. You can feel that everything is very reactionary as an MP, whereas building a Lego model gives you control and normality.”
Linden’s life doesn’t have much normality. He describes himself as having lived on “fast-forward”: he left school at 16, opting for an apprenticeship over university, married at 21, had his first child at 25, a second at 28, and separated from his wife at 30. He also became an MP at just 27. He believes it has become easier to be a young MP as there is now an informal, cross-party support network. “If you look at the days of Charlie Kennedy or Jo Swinson – who were both babies of the House – being elected in your 20s, you were very much alone,” he says. “Now millennial MPs tend to gravitate together in bars and restaurants, and like each other’s posts on Instagram.”
He is proud to be a “career” politician. “‘I can’t think of any other career where if someone dedicated all that time to their craft that it would be frowned upon,” he argues. “I’ve worked in Westminster, Holyrood and Brussels, and have a deep knowledge of how the legislative process works. That’s not a bad thing! You wouldn’t turn around to a plumber and say: ‘You’ve been a plumber for 30 years, you’ve never had another job!’”
Despite his youth, he says that in his role as the SNP’s work and pensions spokesperson much of his focus has been on trying to ensure the UK is a good country to grow old in: “At the moment, it isn’t, because far too many pensioners live in poverty.”
His more general mission while in Westminster has been to talk to those with whom he vehemently disagrees. “I think it makes me a better politician,” he says. “Jacob Rees-Mogg is a panto villain for nationalist MPs, but when you spend time with him, it can be an exotic experience, you hope to understand how he has come to hold the views he has. If we listen to each other more, this place would be a lot better. People treat the House of Commons Chamber like a glorified TV studio; there’s not enough engagement in debate.”
He works in Westminster Monday to Thursday and has his children at the weekend. “My life is half in MP mode, half in Peppa Pig mode. Although both involve tempers and tantrums!” During the summer recess, he took his children to Legoland Windsor in Berkshire, where he had been as a child when it opened in 1996. “The kids were an excuse to go again,” he admits. What was his favourite part? “Lego Scotland – the mountains and glens – it was phenomenal. But you’d expect me to say that!”
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