ONE of the more pleasing aspects of the new intake of SNP MPs at Westminster is that so many of them come from varied backgrounds, and nearly all of them have had a career or life outside of politics as well as some experience of public service.

Tommy Sheppard is an ideal example of a new politically aware member with a hinterland. The Northern Ireland-born graduate of Aberdeen University is the founder of The Stand comedy club chain, which is also now in its fourth year of running one of the largest operations of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He also failed to win TV’s Masterchef in 1996, though he was a Scottish area finalist.

Sheppard was also a former vice-president of the National Union of Students and deputy leader of the Labour-led Hackney Council, before moving north to work for Edinburgh District Council in 1993. The following year, he became assistant general secretary of the Labour Party in Scotland under John Smith, a position he lost when a certain Tony Blair took over – about whom more later, as they say.

On the morning of May 8, Sheppard showed with his victory speech at the Edinburgh count that he is that rare animal in politics – a born orator who speaks from the heart and doesn’t need prompting. Check out the speech on YouTube to see why he is becoming recognised as a public speaker of note.

“I did wing it a bit and didn’t use notes,” said Sheppard, “but I had plenty of memories in my head from my speeches on the stumps and it was a case of putting them together.”

He did remember to thank his partner, NHS worker Kate Burton, and all his co-workers in Edinburgh East where he ousted Labour’s Sheila Gilmore and gained an impressive majority of 9,106.

The first two weeks at Westminster has seen a lot of “footering about”, as Sheppard puts it.

“We have had to go from a standing start, finding offices and getting ready for the work we have to do,” he said.

Expect Sheppard to be highly visible in the next few days and weeks because of the Tory Government’s decision to ban 16 and 17-year-olds, as well as European Union migrants, from voting in the referendum on Europe. He was named as SNP spokesperson on the Cabinet Office, which means he must challenge the PM’s writ directly.

“I have already heard from a couple living in Edinburgh,” said Sheppard, “one of whom has a Spanish passport who will not be allowed to vote despite living here for 18 years and paying taxes. I think that’s absolutely outrageous, as is the decision not to let 16 and 17-year-olds have their say on their future. It’s the Tories trying to cook the books already.

“We’ll wait to see what exactly they put in the Queen’s Speech, but I suspect the number of our amendments will be comfortably into three figures and our fight against their austerity measures will be under way.”

The ex-Labour man has no sympathy for his old party, dating the advent of his own disenchantment with accuracy.

“It happened 20 years ago when Tony Blair decided to move the party away from the people who founded it, the workers,” he said. “What happened at the General Election was just the culmination of a process that Blair began.”