The Unrepresentative House – Parliament is badly failing to reflect the UK’s ethnic diversity

1st August, 2014 8:16 am

I recently asked Insight Public Affairs to work with me to compile some data about political parties, their MPs and the racial make-up of the constituencies they represent.

The research has just been published by the Guardian and I can only assume, and hope, that the main political parties are as worried about it as I am. It does make for breath-taking reading. You can read it here.

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There are 650 MPs that represent us. All but 27 of them are white. If the 14% of the nation’s BME communities were replicated in Parliament there would be 91 BME MPs. My research goes further. It examines the communities represented by each party in its own constituencies.

The Tories hold 305 seats which contain over 2.5 million BME voters. The Conservatives have a 5% gap between the diversity of their parliamentary party and the constituents they represent. Just 3.6% of their MPs are non-white compared to 8.6% of their constituents.

On the plus side for the Conservatives, the figures are much worse for the Lib Dems who have 56 MPs, all of whom are white and yet 11.4% of their voters are not white.

The picture is even worse for Labour where nearly a fifth of their voters in the 257 Labour held seats are from BME backgrounds, yet the parliamentary party 93.8% white. Nearly 5 million BME voters are represented by Labour’s 257 MPs.

Of the 27 ethnic minority MPs 16 are Labour and 11 are Conservative. The Conservatives went from just 2 non-white MPs to 11 at the last election, which helped boost the overall figure from 15 to 27.

And finally, if the parties looked like the constituents they represent in Parliament, the 11 Tory BME MPs would be 26 in number, the Lib Dems would have 6 instead of zero and Labour would have 50, not 16.

Unfortunately, Insight’s analysis which looks at the background of new candidates in seats where MPs are retiring suggests that the 2015 election will make only a little bit of difference to Parliament’s racial profile. Akin to chipping away at Mount Everest with a toothpick I fear.

Parmjit Dhanda is a former Labour Minister for Race and Faith Communities 

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