Unparliamentary Language: Nusrat Ghani
Marie Le Conte sits down with parliamentarians to ﬁnd out more about the human side of politics. This week, Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani on her annoying habits, her earliest memory and why she “revels in embarrassing others”
What were you like at school?
I loved school! That’s not a cool thing to say, is it? My mother wasn’t allowed to go to school, so I was the first woman in my family to ever go to school, and I loved it. I loved the structure of being at school and I knew how difficult it was for my mum because she couldn’t even write her own name. I knew that being able to read and write was just going to be incredibly empowering. But it also meant that when I was a teenager, my job was to help my mum to read and write, and my one regret in life is I should have made more of an effort; I did teach her to read and write Urdu and Arabic but I didn’t quite finish the English and I wish I had.
What’s your earliest childhood memory?
I remember my younger brother coming home from hospital. My nephew got married recently, so we were sharing a lot of childhood memories with cousins, and my mum was speaking about how different it is now with mums picking up the kids from the school gates. She was very keen to try and strike up conversations when she picked me up from school, and my sister and my brother, but it was incredibly hard for her because she didn’t obviously speak English, and I do remember an incident where she got some abuse from other women, because she dressed funny, didn’t speak English. And that was another reason why I loved school; I was desperate to learn and I was desperate for her to learn so that she could finally strike up a conversation with the women that she was so keen to make eye contact with and talk to and bond with that she couldn’t.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a soldier because I quite liked the idea of a uniform and the idea of the Armed Forces – I don’t know how that came about. I also wanted to be a female priest, but I realised that both of those would have been hard; I don’t think I recall ever seeing a female soldier and obviously there aren’t any female imams so those weren’t going to happen. The curious thing is my parents reminded me that quite early on, I wanted to be a midwife. And that is because I very rarely came across any women who had jobs apart from my teachers and so I think the only woman that entered my home had a job as a midwife. So it was a mixture between being a soldier, a female imam and a midwife, I think.
What’s a habit that annoys you in others?
Being late to things. I can’t abide it. Also, if you’re running around so much, the meetings are so tight and then you’re always desperate to get home and when anyone is late, it moves that on, so I think people should make the time to be on time or early.
What’s your most annoying habit?
I turn up too early for things...And I have a very long memory. My husband will say I remember EVERYTHING, even if it was a decade ago.
If you had one round trip in a time machine, when and where would you go?
It was fantastic when women got the vote, it would have been interesting to see that close up; the suffragette movement, possibly. I was slightly obsessed with pyramids as a child so there could have been a time I would have gone back to Egypt at the time of the pharaohs, that would have been quite interesting.
Have you ever been fired from a job?
Well, not yet.
Do you have a party trick, or unusual talent?
No party trick, but when my nephew got married over Christmas we had a lot of dancing which ranged from joining the bride and groom at the traditional European dance to being able to dance bhangra at the same time, so maybe I can dance in many forms.
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?
I don’t get embarrassed by much... When you become an MP, so many peculiar things happen that you just grow a thick skin. But I revel in embarrassing others; I thrive in embarrassing my family and my daughter and her friends, somehow that just keeps me going. She’s a teenager so the fact that I just exist can be difficult for her. But I try to be cool and understand what Beyoncé is, the whole thing is mortifying for her. I think she just wants me to behave like a normal mum, but I’m not sure what normal mum is.
Have you ever broken the law?
In this country...?
If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Just enjoy it; enjoy everything. It will all be fine, and it has been so far.
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