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British Future projects next polls to elect most diverse UK Parliament ever, but more action needed

British Future projects next polls to elect most diverse UK Parliament ever, but more action needed
Courtesy: Travelpix Ltd | Stone Via Getty Images

Ethnic minority representation in the UK Parliament is set to rise from 10 per cent to around 12 per cent after the next general election – expected in the second half of this year – regardless of the political outcome, finds a new projection by diversity think tank British Future.

The ‘Diversity in the next Parliament’ analysis finds that the main parties having selected roughly around nine-tenths of their candidates for winnable target constituencies and early retirement seats. This indicates that the number of ethnic minority members of Parliament, including British Indians, is set to increase from 65 to at least 75, and even as many as 83. However, even though there is much to celebrate in a “new cross-party norm of ethnic diversity in British politics”, the diversity figure is still below the 15 per cent mark required in order to keep pace with the diversity of the country’s electorate.

Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, said: “The next Parliament will be the most diverse ever, reflecting a new norm across political parties. More ethnic minorities and more women are likely to sit in the Commons than ever before. Parliament is gradually catching up with the electorate that it represents.

“But this needs to accelerate further if it is to keep pace with the growing diversity of our society and close the gender gap. Despite progress, parties could miss a 2024 opportunity to surf the wave of a ‘big change’ election and bring new gains for representation.

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“While the Labour Party is still well ahead of its rivals on gender and minority representation, advances could stall this time round. For the first time, the cohort of incoming Labour MPs could be less diverse than the current PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party]. That could still be addressed by further selections this year. And in the longer term, Parliament and political parties should collect data on ethnicity and social class, to track representation, identify gaps and ensure all groups are getting a fair chance.”

According to the analysis, the Opposition Labour is set to have by far the largest number of ethnic minority MPs – projected to be 55 if the party wins an overall majority, compared to around 21 Conservatives. The 2019 election saw 66 ethnic minority members of Parliament elected to the Commons, including British Indian MPs, and indeed went on to give the UK its first Prime Minister of Indian heritage in Rishi Sunak after political upheavals hastened his predecessors’ terms.

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British Future welcomes the “diversity milestone” of 2019, as for the first time 10 per cent of MPs were from an ethnic minority background, and declares that record looks set to be surpassed once again later this year.

However, it cautions that an opportunity for more significant change may be missed. The 2024 general election is likely to be a “big change” election – one of the three general elections of the last half-century with the biggest turnover of MPs.

“A high turnover of MPs has the potential to accelerate progress towards greater ethnic diversity and gender balance. But this could be diluted by a lower proportion of female and ethnic minority candidates being selected this time around, across most parties,” it warns.

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The selection rate of women has fallen in the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem party selections in this Parliament – with more than six in ten “Class of 2024” candidates being male in all three parties.

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